GalleyMatch Book Clubs Recommend

GalleyMatch book clubs preview advance reading copies (ARCs, also known as galleys) provided by publishers. Below you’ll find the titles book clubs have recently enjoyed reading and discussing along with highlights of their discussion and selected menus from their meetings.

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The Grim Readers, Eastford, Connecticut; Boy's Book Club, San Jose, California; Hamilton High School Staff Book Club, Hamilton, Michigan; Wendy’s Book Club, Malibu, California; OverReaders Anonymous, Cumming, Georgia; Kings Chapel Book Club, Arrington Tennessee

A CALAMITY OF SOULS by David Baldacci (Grand Central,  4/24)
 A mystery set in southern Virginia in 1968 about a racially-charged murder case.

Grim Readers: An excellent match! Every member loved A CALAMITY OF SOULS!The serious Baldacci fans in the group were excited to get early copies of his newest book There was much to discuss, especially in dissecting the differences between civil rights and racism in the 60s and now. Baldacci nailed the racist vibe of small-town 1968. Violence, hypocrisy, and injustice are forefront, but so is kindness. The relationships between the white male lawyer (Jack) and the Black female lawyer (Desiree) show a powerhouse team despite color and cultural differences. Also, we questioned whether the case would have gone so well if it was just one or the other lawyer handling it, as opposed to both of them. This was my first Baldacci book and I'm now a fan. It was never boring, and I flew through the thick book in two days. I see what the fuss is about."

Boy's Book Club of San Jose: “The captivating plot, well-developed characters, and atmospheric setting provided ample fodder for discussion, and we debated the novel's themes long into the evening." - “The novel introduces readers to retired detective John Miller, whose peaceful retirement is shattered by a series of macabre murders. Miller is a compelling protagonist, his internal struggles and haunted past adding depth to the story. As middle-aged men, we found his journey of redemption and self-discovery particularly resonant, and we appreciated Baldacci's nuanced portrayal of his character. Baldacci's wove together elements of mystery, suspense, and the supernatural. The pacing was brisk, with each twist and turn left us eager to learn the truth behind the town's dark secrets and reminded us of how much we appreciate a good mystery.”

“Hamilton Michigan) High School Staff: "A phenomenal match! A CALAMITY OF SOULS was a perfect choice for our group of educators, including many history and literature teachers. This was the first reading selection members unanimously gave a book a 5-star review. Everyone loved the novel. We noted the allusions to To Kill a Mockingbird with comments such as, ‘it felt like a modern-day twist to the book.’ The story evoked strong reactions and personal connections were shared. Much of the discussion centered on race. It sparked conversations about how far our country has come and we still have to go. This is a powerful book for all people to read.

Wendy’s Book Club: “We grew up in the 1960s and 70s but were still young during the time the book took place. Most of us are from the South, and we found it shocking to read the descriptions of unfairness and cruelty” .

“This was a great match for us as we enjoy thrillers. Our most lively discussion topics were about the treatment of Blacks during this time. We found the treatment of Blacks abhorrent—It was fine for them to serve their White bosses but not use the facilities in the homes where they worked all day. Also, how the racial divide caused by Jim Crow laws continued, despite them being overturned, and the lengths the opposition went to during the trial to set up Jerome Washington. We all enjoyed the book and were saddened by the story. The ending was completely unexpected. We recommend to those who enjoy courtroom dramas and historical fiction.”

Menu: "Pot roast (mentioned in the book) with all the fixings, biscuits, and bundt cake for dessert."

OverReaders Anonymous:  A CALAMITY OF SOULS was a great match for our book club and a timely read. Everyone enjoyed the book. A timely read as we continue to face racism and racially motivated crimes in our country We appreciated looking at this period through the author’s eyes and research. We discussed our perspective on racism as we experienced growing up in different parts of the country. We thought the first chapter was powerful as Jerome was arrested and this scene immediately connected history to the present and helped initiate our discussion. We discussed how people are resistant to change how it is hard to take a stand for what is right, and the barriers that stand in the way of social justice. We discussed the most compelling character in the book, Hilda Lee, and her transformation—she changed significantly when she moved and her relocation altered her values and behaviors. Recommended for those who enjoy well-developed characters, good storytelling, courtroom dramas, and historical fiction set in the late 1960s."

King's Chapel “Our book club found A CALAMITY OF SOULS, set in Virginia in the late 1960s, to be an excellent match. We enjoy historical fiction and are located in the South, which made the book's themes particularly resonant.” King’s Chapel Book Club previewed @davidbaldacciauthor's A CALAMITY OF SOULS, a mystery set in southern Virginia in 1968 about a racially-charged murder case with advance copies courtesy of #GalleyMatch and @grandcentralpub.
"Our members come from diverse backgrounds, and this sparked rich discussion about racial tensions in the South, both during the 60s and up to the present day. One member, originally from the North, learned a great deal about the Southern experience. We noted many similarities to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and John Grisham’s A Time to Kill.
The author’s note highlights the personal journey and extensive research that went into the book, which was evident in the detailed narrative. Our discussions touched on challenging topics such as racism, women’s rights, classism, and the progress made and yet to be achieved in these areas. We highly recommend this book to those who enjoy historical fiction set in the Jim Crow era South.”

Menu: Southern food--- fried chicken, coleslaw, cucumber salad, banana bread, buffalo chicken dip, various desserts     

TBR Book Club, Charlotte, North Carolina; Chapter by Chapter, Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Happy Bookers, Linn, Missouri

THE TRAIL OF LOST HEARTS  by Tracey Garvis Graves (St. Martins Press, 3/24) 
A novel about two lost souls finding the unexpected courage to love again.

Chapter by Chapter: “THE TRAIL OF LOST HEARTS  was a good match, and resulted in much discussion! Everyone liked the book's premise: two broken-hearted souls seeking solace outdoors while geocaching. While no members have geocached, several were interested in trying it. We talked about how trauma and PTS  can cloud one’s judgment, affect their ability to make rational decisions, communicate with others, and affect their ability to develop healthy relationships. A few members have fostered/adopted children and could relate to Wren’s strong desire to form a connection with Birdie’s half-siblings.

One member raved about the author's novels ON THE ISLAND and A GIRL HE USED TO KNOW, and we have added these selections to our ‘want to read’ list!  We were divided on how the plot played out, which led to a great discussion! A light and easy perfectly paced book with well-developed characters.“

Menu: "Skyline Chili—two, three, or four ways! We also had sausage and mushroom pizza (the member who brought it refused to order ham and pineapple on half. As a nod to the multiple breakfast scenes, the dessert was croissant bread pudding topped with maple syrup."

Happy Bookers: “We admired Wren’s resilience and fortitude in putting forth, and staying with, what was best for her and her life, having learned from her past heartaches. Her bravery and strength in forging forward amidst her adversities were hailed as great attributes- could we have done the same in her shoes was a point of discussion. Marshall’s gentleness and understanding while dealing with his own issues and sorrows won us over repeatedly. There is depth to this story and the choices opened up much to discuss. We were familiar with geocaching but did not know much about it. A member provided a cache with the motorcycle that was key in the story. The same member and her family hiked frequently and provided pictures of Crater Lake and many things that were staples within the trail life portrayed in this story. We were rooting for Wren and Marshall. It was heartening to us to see the good in Marshall. THE TRAIL OF LOST HEARTS reigns high among our top reads for the relationship that unfolds. Recommended for those who enjoy a romantic venture with depth and with a setting and premise to learn much from. A member’s cozy log home by the fireplace was the perfect place to discuss the hiking adventures of these two who tried their hand at geocaching in beautiful areas of the United States."

Menu: “Pizza played a role within the romance—our hostess served pizza and a delicious salad.”

TBR Book Club: “We had a great discussion, including what we would have felt in Wren's circumstance, and when/if we would have done things following her timeline, such as sharing with Marshall about being pregnant or waiting like she did, or visiting her ex’s widow to establish that relationship especially so early. Members held varying perspectives, making the discussion engaging. The read was swift and straightforward, yet it possessed depth."

 

Lit Ladies, Melbourne, Florida; Tequila Mockingbird, Massapequa Park, New York; Literary Lounge, Clovis, California; Spines & Wines, Franklin Lakes, New Jersey

BYE, BABY by Carola T. Lovering  (St. Martins Press, 3/24)
A novel about female friendship, a missing baby, and the toxic, secret history between two women.

Thrillers by the Book Club:  “Our book club reads thrillers, and, recently delved into BYE, BABY, an engaging read, perfect for our interests. We were hooked by the first chapter involving the main character and a baby. the discussions within our group were rich and varied. Part of our conversation centered on friendship, particularly the complexities of long-standing relationships from childhood. We explored how friendships evolve, sometimes leading to a natural drift apart, yet a lingering sense of care remains. The book led us to reflect on our experiences with seemingly one-sided friendships and how we've navigated them. Billie's intense fixation on Cassie initially struck us as excessive, but as the story unfolded and revealed her past traumas, we understood her motivations better. Our discussions also touched on how these traumas influenced Billie's determination to sustain her friendship with Cassie, despite the latter's manipulative and self-centered nature.  Members were eager to recommend the book to others, especially those who enjoy themes including complicated friendships, the use of dual perspectives, and timelines."

Literary Lounge: “So thankful for the opportunity to read BYE, BABY We really enjoyed it,  and couldn’t put it down! A perfect match for our book club! We all enjoyed this story of a toxic friendship, the influencer culture, and how it can change people. We appreciated the story's timeline and how it went back and forth between the origin of Cassie and Billie’s friendship to their current status as friends  We discussed how ridiculous people can get with influencers and that whole culture. We recommend to those who enjoy books about toxic friendships.”

Spines & Wines: “The short chapters including the dual points of view and timelines, kept us intrigued as the story unravels their friendship throughout the years. The author perfectly depicts events that pulled their friendship apart and revealed the deepest secrets that bonded Cassie and Billie together. We all liked and hated Billie and Cassie at different points throughout the novel.  The most interesting topics were the scenario questions that the book prompted. For example, the role of social media, materialism, Grant’s view of his wife’s business, and defining a healthy friendship! We wanted more details to unravel juicier minor storylines. Recommended for those who enjoy stories about toxic friendships, alternating timelines, and suspense novels!"

Lit Ladies Read:  "Alternating points of view made this a page-turner. We also loved that social media is a huge part of the story We all enjoyed this easy read that was a thought-provoking look at friendship and motherhood. This book was character-driven, and we had a lengthy discussion about Billie and Cassie. We discussed our initial thoughts of each character and how these thoughts changed as we learned their stories. We agreed that we didn’t like Cassie in the beginning and our dislike of Cassie only grew over time. While with Billie, we grew to like her more as the story progressed. Even though Billie did something terrible, we felt for her and did not want to see her get caught or get in trouble. We appreciated how the ending wrapped up the story   We recommend to those who enjoy dramas about friendship."                                                                                            


Sisterhood Book Club, Macon, Georgia; Beth El Synagogue Book Club, Omaha Nebraska; Newly Revisioned Bookclub, St. Albans, Vermont;
Key Women Educators, Villages, Florida; Teachers Who Read, Columbus, Ohio

ADAM UNREHEARSED by Don Futterman (Post Hill Press, 11/23)
A coming-of-age comedy set in New York in 1970— a story of friendship, betrayal, life, death, and acting,

Beth El Synagogue: “A Perfect match! We were all impressed by the writing style and content, especially for a debut novel Truly a 5Many of our members grew up in the NYC area and were very family with locations, schools mentioned, and curriculum! We could all relate to the 1970 time frame and recall the events highlighted in the narrative. 

The highlight of our discussion was connecting with the author, Don Futterman, by Zoom. He graciously spoke for a long time about the background and content of the book and answered our questions, reminisced about growing up in 1970's NYC and the freedom children experienced then. We discussed his friends, family, synagogue how he decided to move to Israel, and his thoughts on the current situation. It was a fantastic opportunity to read and meet the author.  Recommended for those who enjoy a coming of age story and learning about Jewish life in NYC 1970s”

Menu: In honor of Adam's Bar Mitzvah, we served a dessert buffet.

Newly Revisioned: “ADAM UNREHEARSED was a great match for our book club, and provided fodder for great discussion. Members felt the issues rang true for the community and enjoyed exploring them alongside the main character. We all loved that Adam became so immersed in the theater, and appreciated the power it had to help him find his own way, make new friends, and explore his confusing world through a piece of literature. The scenes from DAWN were so vividly described that we could feel the scene unfolding before our very eyes. We also agreed that the development of Adam's character was spot-on. We REALLY liked him— such a big heart!" Recommended for those who enjoy books about young adults with a social message.”

Sisterhood: “We delved into Adam's emotional journey, particularly focusing on his feelings of betrayal when his friends ostracized and bullied him, especially after his attempt to steal comic books resulted in getting caught on his first foray into wrongdoing. We also explored social shifts, such as the changing seating plans for his bar mitzvah, and the ebb and flow of friendships, with old ones dissolving and new ones forming. Through trials, Adam emerged with increased self-esteem and eventually reconciled with his friends, despite the initial confusion and hurt caused by their unexpected hostility.”

Teachers Who Read:  “We liked Adam and the 1970s time period. Education was very different at that time and as teachers, we like to compare and contrast!   None of us participated in theater growing up so that was fun to read about, along with the educational aspect. We discussed What schools looked like in the '70s and how different it is from the world without cell phones and technology. We all liked it and had many scenes stayed with us. This book has many discussion points as Adam matures in the coming-of-age story so it's perfect for book club! Recommended for those who enjoy books that lead to much discussion and have a main character you are rooting for!”            

Book Buddies, Carrollton, Texas, and Circle of Readers Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
HENDERSON HOUSE by Caren Simpson McVicker

A boardinghouse tale of sisters, secrets, and later-in-life romance (8/1/23, Inkshares)

Carrollton Book Buddies: "We unanimously loved  HENDERSON HOUSE and are anxiously awaiting the sequel!" Our club especially enjoyed the storytelling Caren weaves into the plot and the suspense of family secrets and sister loyalty. One of the threads in the novel is women in the workplace in the early 1940s. We discussed jobs women from past generations have held, from millinery shops in south Texas to restaurants in Germany! We shared our versions of ‘self-talk,’ kitchen ladies from church, the supporting roles of the ‘menfolk’ and their impact on the story, and sister relationships.

Henderson House is a relaxing respite from the busy world we live in. The novel is a flashback to 1940s Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and the simpler life of Wednesday night church suppers, Saturdays at the local cinema, and Sunday walks in the park after church. Based on family history and stories, Caren’s main character, Mildred Henderson, turns her grand home into a boarding house after the unexpected death of her husband. Mrs. H. and her beagle, Louie, captivate readers as she uses her special gifts— sensing houses and seeing a person’s color and an interview checklist to choose her tenants. Frank Davis, a newly hired petroleum engineer at Philips Petroleum, checks all the boxes, changing the lives of the other boarders, the Blackwell family. In a few weeks, readers fall in love with Mrs. H.’s wisdom and Frank’s mild-mannered, genuine interest in the family, but most importantly his attraction to spinster Bessie, and where their friendship might lead. Dinners around the table with boarders recounting the day’s activities, unique recipes shared, and even cooking lessons make food and conversation tantalizing.

We recommend for those who enjoy historical fiction set in mid-20th century America."

Menu: "From the author’s HENDERSON HOUSE Recipe Collection: Appetizers—The Oklahoma Club Special, Edna’s Award-Winning Deviled Eggs, and Corn & Bean Salad with lime dressing."

Main course salads—Waldorf, Cucumber & Tomato, and Chicken

Dessert— Mrs. H’s White Cake Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting. The ‘take-away’ gift—a Boarder Interview Kit: a teapot filled with a stack of homemade almond shortbread cookies and lemon tea."

Circle of Readers: “While we rarely agree on the merits of a book, everyone in the group enjoyed the novel—its characters, family stories, and the Oklahoma setting of HENDERSON HOUSE! We found the family stories engaging, but HENDERSON HOUSE also addresses some tough topics: sexual harassment, women in the workplace, unwed pregnancy, family dynamics, and prejudice against the Cherokees.  We also enjoyed discussing the characters themselves and what motivates them., and the opportunity to meet with the author on Zoom, Recommended for those who enjoy family stories, a bit of magic, and charming characters. Thank you for such great opportunities to meet authors and read good books."

Menu:  "Everyone enjoyed the tasty Knobby Apple Cake from the author’s website."

Book Club Girls, Sparta, New Jersey; Literary Lovelies, Yonkers, New York; Blu Stocking Lit Society, West Allis Wisconsin
ONLY THE BEAUTIFUL by Susan Meissner (Berkley Pub, 2023)

A novel about a young mother’s fight to keep her daughter and the terrible injustice that tears them apart.

Blu Stockings Lit Society: “ONLY THE BEAUTIFUL had difficult topics to read about, but the novel provided a deep foundation for discussion.”We were not aware of eugenics in this country continuing into the 1970s. This book was well-researched and provided enough information that you could look further into our country’s history in pursuing and maintaining policies on forced sterilization. The themes of power/weakness, strength, and compliance versus complacency were a focus for our group. We discussed complacency as a weakness of character resulting in compliant behavior—if you don’t speak or act out you could be considered in support. Drawing from a historical perspective at this time in history we are all very complacent and history could easily be repeated. Additional topics of discussion included eugenics today and how decisions are being made regarding genetic technology, gene editing and embryo engineering. Several members in work in health care which also led to talk about inequality in access and information and how that impacts the choices available to individuals. We discussed how many events have occurred over time that one may not be aware of. One of the great benefits of reading is continuing learning for life. We recommend to those who enjoy historical fiction with strong historical components that lead to a robust discussion.”

Book Club Girls of Sparta: “We enjoyed our discussion about this thought-provoking and emotional book.” - We are taken on a journey of family, motherhood, and a fight to keep a child that faces unbearable challenges during this time in history, shifting between California in 1938 at a family-owned vineyard and Europe in 1947.

We enjoy historical fiction when we learn history that none of us were aware of. None of us knew what synesthesia was, and we had heard of eugenics because we read other books that explored this subject.  For many, it was difficult to read because of the portrayal of suffering during the war and when people just didn't accept others who were different.   

We discussed the options for at women and young girls at this time in history and the ability to make their own choices. That there was so much evil and so few tried to help and do what was right impacted us. We felt the main thread of the book was about family and how the deep desire to find a feeling of home, love, and safety is universal.   Everyone felt they learned a lot and was interested in other titles by Susan Meissner."

Menu: "California wine and rich desserts you would find in Vienna.  We met at Sparta Classic Diner for dinner and decadent desserts."

Literary Lovelies: ”We all loved ONLY THE BEAUTIFUL.  Our book club loves historical fiction and we all enjoyed the multiple storylines."-  This story was particularly heartbreaking, especially for the mothers in our group. We have met monthly for over 3 years and this was our first repeat author! We love Susan Meissner and this was our favorite GalleyMatch yet.

We had a good discussion regarding the period, if people would want another mouth to feed coming out of the Great Depression. We also discussed the family dynamics. It was eye-opening that this happened. In our day of a woman’s right to choose, it was devastating to see that these women were sterilized without any say at all or even knowledge of what was happening.  Although this was set against the backdrop of World War II it was a very different tale about this period. Meissner has a way of pulling the reader into the characters’ lives, leaving you thinking about them long after the book has been read. Recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction, heavy subjects, and books that take you out of your comfort zone."

Boys Book Club, San Jose California; Between the Lines, Woolwich, New Jersey Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York
GENEVA by Richard C. Armitage (Pegasus 10/23)
A bold and unpredictable debut thriller set in Switzerland's biotech world (and deceptive beauty), by acclaimed actor Richard Armitage.  

 Boys Book Club:“ We enjoyed GENEVA, a page-turner! We found ourselves engrossed in a discussion about the complex themes in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss, global intrigue, and the chilling notion of brain implants that seem all too real. These topics and the ethical dilemmas presented in the book sparked an interesting conversation. We enjoyed the characters and the author’s vivid descriptions. Those who listened to the audio version narrated by Richard Armitage, Nicola Walker, and Jane Perry highly recommended it.

Menu: “Cheese fondue, Toblerone chocolate. Two beers: Forgotten Thoughts and Stranger than Fiction"

Reading Between the Wines: “GENEVA was a great match for our book club. We love reading mysteries and thrillers and this fast-paced thriller set in Geneva, Switzerland in the world of biotech research, had some great red herrings to keep us interested and intrigued. We discussed the biotech world and the ethics surrounding new discoveries. We also discussed the dynamics between Sarah and her husband Daniel, and how her career as a  Nobel prize-winning scientist affected their relationship We enjoyed discussing GENEVA!. Lots of red herrings and a great twist kept the conversation going!"

Menu: "Chocolate fondue with fruit and cookies, cheese fondue and bread, mulled wine, and Toblerone!"

Between the Lines: "We were wowed that GENEVA is Richard’s debut novel—the last 20 minutes of the book had us on the edge of our seats!”-“We all enjoyed, this fast-paced thriller read. GENEVA dives into Alzheimer’s, family dynamics, and the biotech industry. It was a roller coaster ride. We have family members with medical illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and we’re interested in the biotech part of the story. We loved the ending and couldn’t get over how it unfolded—it was our favorite part. We recommend GENEVA to book clubs that enjoy a heart-pumping, edge-of-your-seat ending.  Richard Armitage narrates the male POV, so get the audio and give your ears a true treat."

Menu: "Fondue with Swiss cheese, as book is set in Switzerland"

Romancing the Hearthstone, Rogers Arkansas; Happy Bookers, Linn, Missouri; Legacy Literary Ladies, The Villages, Florida   
STREET CORNER DREAMS by Florence Reiss Kraut (SheWrites, 11/23)
A  novel about  Golda, who comes to America yearning for independence before World War I, but tosses aside her dreams of freedom and marries her widowed brother-in-law after her sister dies giving birth to their son.

Romancing the Hearthstone: “We all gave STREET CORNER DREAMS five stars!. We adored it. Most members couldn’t put it down and read it in two days. They loved the writing style and commented that the pacing was great for historical fiction— a page-turner.  This was a wonderful story told from the perspective of an immigrant. The novel made us feel so grateful for what we have. The discussion centered on how weak Ben was and how strong Goulda and Sarah were.  Members were invested in this story and wanted a sequel to know what happens to Morty.”

Legacy Literary Ladies: “Most members enjoyed STREET CORNER DREAMS from the onset, but ended up loving the novel. As the characters developed, the story was very believable, andhated to see it end, with engaging twists and turns. It is an emotionally charged story that reads easily and is well crafted.  A vivid portrayal of the immigrant experience with believable, vivid.  characters and an engaging story that we all felt a connection to.
Menu: Potato latkes

Happy Bookers: "STREET CORNER DREAMS was full of historical events, family drama with struggles, perseverance, and romance. The surprises and twists in various storylines kept our discussion going!"-The characters will long live in our reading memories: Golda, Ben, Morty, Anna, Sylvia, Surah, and Esther. The difficulties and struggles of these immigrants as they faced the events of the Great Depression, the Spanish Flu, and World War 1 provide an influx of social history surrounding their lives. It was intriguing to read the family mysteries surrounding those characters, who are working toward their dreams, as they work through their difficulties and challenges. Which loves will prevail amidst the pressures of war, the gangs, and economic factors of the day as they work to make their way in their new land?

We didn’t know much about the gangs of New York. Families and businesses faced many obstacles and were targeted by gang threats of paying protection fees to survive. A main discussion topic was comparing our lives and advantages to the hardships of our nation's newcomers. We wondered if we could withstand the modes of travel, lack of communication and job opportunities, and health crises with limited care with the same fortitude." 

Menu: "Anna’s uncle Tony’s deli-inspired bread, salami, and Swiss cheese. We meet on the opening night of the Osage View restaurant overlooking beautiful rolling hills that many immigrants years ago came upon in settling in our county.


Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado; Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; Revivals, Germantown, Wisconsin; Lit Happens, California, Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Missouri

THE FARMER'S WIFE by Helen Rebanks (Harper Horizon,  9/23)
An honest portrait of rural life and an authentic exploration of both the hard work and reward of keeping a home and raising a family.

Ranch Readers: We loved this memoir and felt it was rare in that it was raw and practical. It made us remember our own trials and tribulations of courtship, career choice, having babies, and the hard work of being a mother and supportive wife. Although Helen experienced many changes in lifestyle she ultimately realized being a wife and mother were the most important aspects of her life and those choices made her the happiest. We enjoyed the recipes she so effortlessly executed, and we felt almost like a family member, getting to know the various individuals she wrote about so intimately and from her heart. A few members spoke about the long hours of work and almost constant attention needed to maintain farm animals that farming involves, and how every member of the family has to contribute to maintaining a farm, the loneliness they often experienced by living isolated on a large farm as children, but also the joys of sharing the rebirth every spring of the farm animals' young and planting season being completed. They also remembered the joys of harvest season when other farmers would gather to help each other and then celebrate by sharing a large meal together. We all enjoyed reading about how food and cooking were important to the author and spoke about the recipes we wanted to try as we discussed the book. We also discussed how family farms contribute the most to preserving sustainable practices and how important it is to support farmers, shepherds, and ranchers. The memoir encouraged us to think about writing our own life stories and including favorite family recipes. Recommended for those who enjoy reading honest memoirs, and being a wife and mother.” 

Menu: “Helen's Lentil and Tomato Soup before our discussion--it was so delicious!—and her Lemon Drizzle Cake for dessert”

The Revivals: "We enjoy cooking and this book presented a wonderful opportunity for us to share our kitchen prowess by each of us preparing one or two dishes that came together as a shared dinner; family dinners being a priority for Helen. We discussed Helen's unique art and her enjoyment of creating a comfortable family home. We agree with Helen and share her enjoyment of home-cooked meals and family mealtimes. We discussed our own comfort levels with home births and marveled at Helen's thoughtfully made choices with her second child. We cheered for Helen when she perfectly described the many hats a stay-at-home mom wears and the feelings accompanying that life path. While possibly not given enough attention in the book, Helen writes with personal insight on the food choices we all should be paying more attention to and the farmers who provide our life-sustaining food. In clear and concise few short paragraphs, Helen has enlightened us on the importance of sustainable farming systems that encourage ‘good food from good farming.’. We recommend this book to those who enjoy coming of age, home cooking, memoirs, and women's studies. "

Menu: “Members chose and recreated recipes from the book: Smoked salmon rectangles, hummus and pita chips, frittata, field mushroom soup and croutons, easy chocolate cake, and panettone(bread and butter) pudding.”

Get Woke: "A magical evening! In honor of THE FARMER’S WIFE, and farm-to-table eating, we partnered with the Pleasant Grove Pizza- where host Emily creates unique pizzas with local and seasonal food, which enriched our discussion and palate. Rebanks reflects on her life revealing family struggles and relationships, the challenges of motherhood, and the stigma of honoring ‘small domestic things’ She champions the importance of the daily grind of domesticity. Her thoughts are enhanced by sketches, and family recipes are sprinkled throughout the book.

"Her ideas about the benefits of a simple life, and enthusiasm for farm life, and the prevailing attitudes regarding women’s roles struck a chord with our group. Several members grew up in farming families, and they recalled the wives’ drudgery, cooking, and cleaning as never-ending activities, feeling trapped in the house, constantly preparing field lunch boxes.
Rebanks feels the false perceptions and frustrations that can stereotype ‘life within the home”. The importance of mundane, day-to-day events is often overlooked. The prevalent, cultural dogma strongly suggests that 'life outside the home is more important than the one inside the home.' She realizes that there are all kinds of 'mums' that 'carry our own stuff on our shoulders,' and unless we have walked in each other’s shoes, we should not judge.
Rebanks focuses on food, including her journey as a cook and inherited family recipes. She encourages readers to shop locally and seasonally. In southern Minnesota, we enjoy local meat and produce, and this theme resonated. We designed our meeting to honor the local food movement. Our hosts Emily and Bill partner with local farmers, winemakers, and brewers. Their farm consists of 55 acres of prairie grassland and oak trees, home to animals, a wood-fired pizza oven, a barn, and a large garden. We celebrated THE FARMER’S WIFE with Emily’s unique food creations— and she joined our discussion."
Menu: "Smoked Salmon Crostini (inspired by Rebanks’ recipe) Piggy in the Orchard Pizza, Apple Pie Pizza, local wine."
Lit Happens:
Menu: Spaghetti Carbonara with Mushrooms, and Dauphinoise Potatoes. Scrambled Eggs and Homemade Fries, Maple-Sweetened Overnight Oat, Hot Chocolate Flight. Lemon Meringue Pie.

Chapter by Chapter Book Club of Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Happy Bookers of Linn, Missouri; Words!Women!Wine! of Brookfield, Wisconsin

THE HIDDEN LIFE OF ASTER KELLY by Katherine A. Sherbrooke  (Pegasus Books, 4/23)
The story of a runway model in 1940s Hollywood who makes a split-second decision intended to protect those she loves but triggers a cascade of secrets that threatens to upend her daughter’s life decades later.

Chapter by Chapter: "THE HIDDEN LIFE OF ASTER KELLY was a great match. We really enjoy historical fiction and several members commented that they enjoyed the glimpse behind the scenes of the fashion industry in Hollywood. We were interested in how their lifestyle judged those involved in fashion and industry. Several members had read THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO and talked about the similarities between the two books. Told from the perspective of mother/daughter protagonists in dual time periods on opposite coasts, this one kept me turning the page late into the night. I didn’t expect to be so absorbed, but I highly recommend this read!"

Menu: "As a nod to Benny’s meatballs, our potluck included meatball pizza. Our drink was Caramel Apple Cider—a nod to the Berkshires, which was referenced in the novel."

Happy Bookers:  “From the fabulous cover to the title to the main character’s name, we were intrigued! When we learned that the book was inspired by the author‘s mother, it added even more interest. THE HIDDEN LIFE OF ASTER KELLY is a story of secrets, of decisions, and the consequences of those decisions, with surprising twists and entanglements that kept us reading to learn how the mother’s choices impact her daughter’s life. Learning about Hollywood particularly the fashion, and glamour of 1940s Hollywood to 1970s Broadway was fascinating. Our conversation focused on the difficulty of life-altering decisions and their outcomes. We discussed the bonds of the chosen family and the strength of love and loyalty. An interesting point was how the story involved a coming of age for both Aster and her daughter Lissy. Choices involving Lissy’s Broadway and Noah’s music careers gave us much to talk about. And no one saw a big twist coming! I have since listened to several of the author's interviews and love her background story for this book. We look forward to reading more of her books. We recommend this novel to those who enjoy historical fiction about Hollywood, Broadway, and family drama."

Menu: “Our versions of Benny’s homemade meatballs and soup. When served, we commented on how this was the ultimate comfort food for this story.”

Words!Women!Wine!: "We all enjoyed this book and the strong female protagonists and both timeline plots. We had a great discussion with many viewpoints. We discussed  Sam and Aster's relationship. Both characters seemed to have conflicting feelings, although the relationship had some redeeming qualities One member noted that Aster had made so many fabrications about her life, it was hard to keep her secrets straight. It was as if the fabrications were woven into her background, much like her early desire to be a fashion designer. Many of us liked that Aster moved from clothing to sculpture and felt that was a well-developed plot line.

We all agreed that the love story of Fernando and Benedict/Christopher was the best in the book. We discussed it must have been for gay celebrities in the 40s & 50s and even still today. We had not heard of the term ' avender scare’ which led us into a discussion of discrimination and profits and politics. It was interesting to us that both females fixated on their one true love - even though initially they both let them go. Many of us thought it was predictable that Christopher/Benny would die after the lead-up to that scene, but we were all shocked in the end that the death had been fake. We had a lot of discussions around the death, funeral, and new stories. Suggested for clubs that enjoy a female-centered novel with a lot of relationships and secrets.

Menu: "Prosecco and shrimp cocktail (very Hollywood) and followed that with a "Tivoli dinner of caesar salad, penne & meatballs. We had an Italian Love cake for dessert! "                                                                                           

 

St. Louis Lit Book Club, Missouri; Melanie's Book Club, Sioux Falls, South Dakota  Angry Book Club, Norwich, Connecticut
THE INTERN by Michele Campbell, (St. Martin’s Press, 10/23)
A young Harvard law student falls under the spell of a charismatic judge in this timely and thrilling novel about class, ambition, family, and murder.

St. Louis Lit Book Club: “As fall nears the perfect book to pick up is a thriller like THE INTERN, which was interesting from the beginning. and the action was not far-fetched, which was nice for a thriller. Having two points of view allowed our book club to choose which characters we liked most and why. There were many characters to keep track of, which added layers to the discussion. Legal thrillers were new to some, and the reaction was positive to receiving a new type of book we may not have otherwise picked. Recommended for those who enjoy legal thrillers, and multi-character stories. and fast-paced mysteries."

Menu: "We drank wine to match the cover at Winnie's Wine Bar in St. Louis."

Angry Book Club: We enjoyed THE INTERN! We are known for being pretty critical (hence the anger) but this book got thumbs up, and we especially enjoyed the end! This book had me turning pages, especially with the switched perspectives! There was much conversation about Madison’s indecisiveness, which annoyed some members, while others thought it made her more relatable. We also discussed whether Katherine was smart enough to escape her situation without taking the steps she did. Several of us live near, or have spent time in Boston, and really enjoyed the Boston descriptions and mentions of real restaurants and places —the characters actually drink Dunkin, take the T (and get off at real stops), and live in areas of the city that make sense. This led to a great discussion about books that successfully create a sense of place and the joy of reading books about places we have lived. Recommended for those who enjoy legal thrillers.

Melanie's Book Club: "We all loved THE INTERN. It was a great match for our book club because it's rare for us to find a book that we all enjoy and this was that book! We had an excellent discussion about the book, specifically talking about the relationships among the characters in the book- and how they affected their decision-making. Being from the Midwest, we couldn't really relate to the mob connections, but we could relate to family difficulties and making difficult decisions regarding family members  We had many discussions about our families and the different relationships, troubles, and decisions. We know each other well, but it was interesting to learn more and refreshing to hear that all families have issues and work through them in different ways. Recommended for those who enjoy conflict, suspense, and deciding how far you'll go to protect your family."     

The Famished for Fiction Book Club of Frisco, Texas, Flagstaff Ladies Book Club, Arizona, Boozy Books Book Club and Kaukauna Wisconsin

YOUR PLANTATION PROM IS NOT OKAY by Kelly McWilliams (Little Brown, 5/23)
A YA novel about Harriet Douglass, a teenager living with her historian father on a plantation turned enslaved people's museum, who must handle her feelings of anger when an actress who purchased the plantation next door, plans to turn it into an event venue.

Famished for Fiction: “We loved this multilayered story. The magnitude of all the things affecting Harriet led to a lot of thoughtful discussion. We gave it 5/5 stars!"

The setting of the book reminded us of Whitney Plantation in South Louisiana. We discussed the struggle that exists between the beauty of the plantation homes and grounds the acknowledgment of the horrors of slavery and the pain and suffering of the enslaved people that were forced against their will to build those homes and maintain those grounds. Is it possible to be in awe of those beautiful places and yet heartbroken by the pain that surrounds them?

The importance of seeing both sides of a story and acknowledging them is what leads to improvement in our relationships with people who are different from ourselves. Harriett spent much time caring for herself as her father was unable to do more than the bare minimum after the death of her mother. Harriett's anger with outsiders' inability to see, acknowledge, and respect the purpose of a landmark such as their plantation. We recommend this book to those who enjoy thought-provoking reads that have a different perspective from the 'norm. We are a diverse group of women who enjoy thought-provoking books that enhance our discussion and this was a great fit."

Menu:  Down South Kitchen and Bakery for Southern food

Boozy Books: "Thank you for the match! We might not have read YOUR PLANTATION PROM IS NOT OKAY otherwise. When a book makes you cry it’s automatically a great book .We liked the mix of the main character's naïveté and cynicism as the book progresses. We discussed toxic parenting and our perceptions of the adults, the character’s adjustments as they navigate issues, our appreciation of having a flawed main character, and the grace given to Layla but not the white friends she grew up with. We were interested in the 17-year-old perspective—and all the current social issues and cultural references, such as TikTok. 'What’s up with teen/middle school boys and frogs' stood out as an amusement.

We recommend this novel to clubs who enjoy contemporary social issue books, or DEAR MARTIN or THE HATE YOU GIVE.”

Flagstaff Ladies: “We all enjoyed this novel, which spurred much discussion about the South (none of us grew up there), plantations, tourist rentals, grief, and growing up a person of color in today's America. We also liked the main character because Harriet is such a teenager —more than half of us are moms of girls).

We live in a tourist town, so though the housing isn't all historic, there are wealthy outsiders who have second homes here, so the way Harriet bristles at the new neighbors resonated. The way she also kind of liked the new girl and determined she was human was also something a few of us could identify with. And her anger issues...not unfamiliar! It was a great trait to give Harriet, and we talked a bit about our own struggles with rage, as well as dealing with others who have trouble controlling theirs.

We have a significant Native-American presence in our city, so that is where we see discrimination, disrespect, and racism crop up, and we had a great discussion about how as women, we also see (and experience) these micro- or upfront- aggressions more readily than our male partners. We also discussed being in a bit of a bubble because it is a small city, and there are no obvious monuments to discrimination that we would drive by all the time (on the nearby reservation, yes). The discussion about grief was also interesting -- how do you remember your loved ones? Do you remember their last days or the rest of their lives? We had a debate about Dawn and what we would have thought about our daughters dating him, or a friend dating their childhood buddy. We liked him but realized we would have been protective of Harriet because she was not very savvy about relationships. We thought the story was well-written and it was nice that it didn't end with everything neatly resolved -- that was realistic. Recommended for those who enjoy novels about young adults, the South, and that discuss racism."                                        

Menu: "One of our group stopped at fast food on the way to book club. Shout out to Harriet's dad!"        

 The Revivals, Germantown, Wisconsin; Woodlands Lunch and Books, Woodlands, Texas Get Woke, New Prague, Minnesota; Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado "

CHASING THE PANTHER: Adventures and Misadventures of a Cinematic Life Carolyn Pfeiffer with Gregory Collins (Harper Horizon, 6/23)
Film producer and early Hollywood female coming-of-age memoir, set against the backdrop of Fellini's Rome, French New Wave Paris, and Swinging London.

Get Woke: "CHASING THE PANTHER reads like a novel: encounters with the rich and famous; travels to exotic cities and countries, experiences, and success as a pioneering film producer and PR representative. We called Pfeiffer the ‘female Forrest Gump’'–Readers travel on a high-speed train rocketing through Pfeiffer’s coming-of-age adventures as she explores NYC and Europe during the turbulent 1960s-‘70s amidst the significant cultural shifts and the ascendance of the film industry. Pfeiffer vividly describes the art, culture, and society of post-war Europe and New York City. Her insights into the actors and film industry were fascinating. The film industry's growth is part of a larger story involving changing attitudes and paradigm shifts of the post-war years, a time when many of us also came of age. The introduction of the birth control pill and Pfeiffer’s romantic encounters mirrored the cultural changes. Book club invitations featured film strips. members were asked to become film directors: and select highlights from the book for a film preview. We discussed the changing role of women and Pfeiffer’s lifetime goal of ‘pushing boundaries’. She felt you had to ‘leave yourself behind’ to discover uniqueness. We were drawn to her comments on women’s status: the expectation that a woman’s role was to be worthy of a man. Her reply resonated: ‘Let no one ever call me worthy.’ Pfeiffer challenged the attitudes of patriarchy, the power of men, and the sensuality of women. Her adventures allowed us to experience the paradigm shifts occurring in the world—positive and negative We agreed her talents, opportunities, and personality allowed her to take advantage of this era, and the difficulty of duplicating this experience today."

Menu: "Honoring her European adventures: Caprese skewers, olives, goat cheese & figs, Pinot Grigio."

The Revivals: “CHASING THE PANTHER covers so many points of interest that it was easy for us to chat all the way through dessert!" We took turns reading and discussing Carolyn's numerous life reflections and insights - we highlighted dozens of quotes. We marveled at Carolyn's remarkable and brave life as she fearlessly pursued her goals. It felt like two books in one: Carolyn's honest and heartfelt observations about her experiences, and a comprehensive cinematic timeline from Europe to the United States. We focused on the former, but scholars will find a valuable resource in the cinematic narrative. As Pfeiffer discussed celebrities, producers, and directors— at times this overwhelmed us, but we are not familiar with the industry and these details were a first exposure. We enjoyed Carolyn's numerous life reflections. GalleyMatch has inspired us to read books we would not have known about and/or genres we would not have selected on our own."

Menu: "Lunch overlooking the lake with multicultural appetizers: Baba ganoush with toasted pita bread (a nod to Omar Sharif); Beet and goat cheese dip with assorted fresh vegetables (Market Fresh Vegetables like one would shop for in France), Avocado chicken salad with jicama and peperoncini peppers on a bed of lettuce with French baguette (A nod to Italy) Dessert:-Lemon buttermilk ice cream with black currant jam and sugar cone."

Woodlands Lunch and Books:  "A good match for It is interesting to read about lives so different from our own and we enjoyed this coming-of-age story.  In a world of cinematic greats, it was fun to read some of the portrayals from Carolyn’s perspective.  A member commented that reading the book made them want to see Doctor Zhivago and another mentioned that they loved Omar Sharif even more after reading the book.  There was a discussion of a disturbing scene in the book and many were disappointed at the actor involved.  We also enjoyed the descriptions of some of the locales throughout Europe that we knew.  As Carolyn discovered herself through the many ups and downs of her early life, it was fascinating to watch her independence shine, especially with Suso d’Amico supporting her career choices. A few members were unfamiliar with numerous names and had to search online for them. Those that enjoy biographies and memoirs, especially of old Hollywood would enjoy this book."

Ranch Readers: "We recall the 1950s and '60s and thoroughly enjoyed CHASING THE PANTHER—the people, films, and occasions were familiar to us, making it a delightful read.

We found Ms. Pfeiffer's memoir exceptionally captivating and thought-provoking. It provided a glimpse into the golden era of cinema behind the scenes. We sympathized with her misfortunes and rejoiced in her successes as a self-sufficient and accomplished woman. We remember the movie era when Carolyn began her career and those she met and interacted with throughout. Although it seemed she lived a fairy tale life, Carolyn faced traumatic events she recounted with candor. Her strength and determination allowed her to overcome adversity and lead a fulfilling artistic life. Her memoir offers a glimpse into the world of fame and fortune in the film industry and a raw, honest portrayal of her struggles and triumphs.

The images added to our enjoyment—several members remembered having photos of Omar Sharif on their bedroom walls as teenagers. We discussed our recollections of the era that Carolyn described, including the films, directors, and producers she mentioned. Despite the notable progress made in women's rights, we realized many obstacles Carolyn faced still endure. The consensus was that success in the film industry depends on connections, and we were impressed by her ability to form relationships with influential figures, and that she was able to rise above her tragedies with grace and not let them deter her from living her best life. Recommended for readers who enjoy a memoir full of experiences more interesting than fiction and film history."

Menu: "Italian cookies that were a tribute to Carolyn's adventures in Italy."

Junior League Book Club of Kalamazoo, Michigan; Spectacles Book  Club, Geneva, Ohio, and Hagerstown Housewives, Hagerstown, Maryland
NO TWO PERSONS  by Erica Bauermeister (St. Martin's Press, 5/2/23)
A novel about the ways in which one book transforms its readers' lives.

Junior League of Kalamazoo: “Every member loved NO TWO PERSONS, the first book in a long time that we overwhelmingly agreed that we loved.T his book is about a book and the reactions and experiences of nine people who encounter it. Even those that couldn’t attend our discussion were texting with their input— the consensus—this book is a home run. We had a great discussion centered around the first line of the fictional book ‘Wandering is a gift given only to the lost,’ and the idea that no two people ever experience anything exactly the same way.

We discussed the way each character responded to the book and why we felt they were so drawn to it. We loved the little Easter Eggs of how characters were connected and agreed that the widower's story was one of our favorites/most heartbreaking. We loved how the story of each character seemed like it could be a stand-alone short story.

“We were surprised that our entire book club loved the book— we tend to be very opinionated and are almost always split on our reading selections. And that we all loved it was much more interesting, as the theme is about how people experience books differently. Just Ike the characters in the book, we had different experiences and reactions while reading it, but in the end, we were all drawn to it for many of the same reasons. Every last one of us recommends NO TWO PERSONS, especially for those who enjoy short stories, unique characters, and lively discussion."

Spectacles: "We agreed that NO TWO PERSONS was a perfect match for our group. What a thought-provoking book. Each book club member’s favorite parts, thoughts, characters, and quotes began a lively conversation about the value and power of words. The individual stories demonstrated how one book can affect readers in amazing and unexpected ways.  It was interesting to read how one book connected all the characters. 

We loved all of the characters and their stories, and everyone in our book club had a favorite.  As teachers, many of us connected with Nola—a character we could easily relate to—and we thought William and Abigail's story was heartbreaking.  We learned through Alice's story that in many ways, a writer's own life experiences affect what is written.We explored the character in each story and saw how the stories were connected.  We discussed how parts of Alice's book were found in each chapter.  It was interesting to see how and when we were able to put the bits and pieces together to tell Theo's story.   As the chapters progressed, we were able to see the impact that the book had on each person and how they moved on.  This book reminded us that no two persons interpret the same book in the same way and interpretations that we share depend on where we are at a certain time.  In addition to the written stories, we loved how the cover depicted the nine readers!

We shared some of our favorite quotes for discussion, such as ‘The beauty of books—they take you places you didn't know you needed to go.’

Menu: "Foods connected to stories: Ramen noodle salad, granola bars (Nola). PBJ sliders and potato chips (Alice and Peter), banana muffins (William)"

Hagerstown Housewives:  “We all enjoyed NO TWO PERSONS. Erica Bauermeister's writing was loved by all. We loved the premise that one story can affect people differently. Some of the most interesting topics were the different chapters that each individual person in my book club liked and their reasons why. We discussed the different stories that resonated. Since we are all book lovers in our book club, we connected to the story of each of the 9 persons who read about Theo.   We all had a soft spot for the book and its many characters. We recommend for those who enjoy relatable stories that connect people in inspiring ways.”                     

Famished for Fiction, Frisco, Texas; Lit Ladies, Indianapolis, Indiana, and Between the Pages, Mt. Morris, New York
BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN by Diane Chamberlain( St. Martins Press, 2020)
A novel of chilling intrigue, a decades-old disappearance, and a woman’s quest for the truth.

Famished for Fiction: We highly recommend BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN, which will remain with us for a long time. The contrasting timelines of the 1940s and the present day, as well as the varying perspectives, made for a captivating read." -

"Chamberlain's writing was impressive, and she has now become one of our favorite authors. Our club enjoyed this intricately crafted book and appreciated the diversity of opinions from our multi-racial group. We learned about the WPA project and the historical setting of Edenton, North Carolina, which we found fascinating. During our discussions, we explored the complex relationships between characters, such as Jesse and Anna, Morgan and Oliver. We delved into the secrets that Nellie kept, and the burden of family responsibility. The ending kept us guessing, and the short chapters made it easy to follow the multiple storylines. Most members gave this novel a 5/5 rating.”

Lit Ladies: "We all enjoyed this novel and it inspired great discussion—success! We discussed the dual timelines, the connections between the protagonists, the art restoration process and research, the epilogue ending, and various aberrations/additions in the mural that Anna added. Members commented that they ‘binged it,’ ‘loved it, ‘couldn’t put it down,’ and “read 250 pages at once.' We recommend to clubs that enjoy historical thrillers and mysteries."

Between the Pages: “Thank you for this read! Hot discussion topics were the dual storyline, life in prison, the big reveal, and small-town life. We live in a small area, so that was discussed at length. We recommend for those clubs that enjoy Intertwined storylines and thrills."                        

Thrillers by the Bookclub-SoCal, and Reckless Readers, Eastford, Connecticut
THE SOULMATE by Sally Hepworth (St. Martins Press, 4/23)
A thriller about marriage, betrayal, and the secrets that push us to the edge,

Thrillers by the Bookclub-SoCal: "We loved THE SOULMATE!, a perfect match for our book club. Most agreed that this one is one of our favorite Sally Hepworth We’re huge fans of hers. Half of our book club met Sally in person during her book tour at Zibby's Bookshop— fantastic! 

"We discussed the dynamics between the two couples and which one was the true soulmate. We appreciated how the author added important topics such as mental health, adoption, and addiction. The characters were intriguing and the level of suspense had us on the edge of our seats. We loved having the perspective of Amanda which gave us a great insight into details about the characters’ relationships.

We enjoyed talking about Gabe’s transformation from the beginning of the story, when we all thought he was a wonderful human being, to the end,  where many details about his character are revealed. The discussion questions provided an excellent guide for our chat. We recommend THE SOULMATE to book clubs that enjoy reading suspenseful family dramas with an atmospheric setting."

Reckless Readers: Normally we discuss the book for a little while, and then jump to other topics. Not last night! There was too much to discuss after reading THE SOULMATE —everyone loved the book and the twists! This book was such a conversation starter! Sally Hepworth is so good at working mental health into her books. Hepworth nailed the portrayal of mental illness as well as codependency— the character Gabe was hard to read, because of how accurately she depicted his illness. Members wanted to break down the relationship between Pippa and Gave, and how forgiving Pippa was when most people would walk. It was an emotional conversation, with so many personal perspectives and stories.

Most members had never read a Sally Hepworth book. After last night, everyone added her books to their TBR lists. I’ve been reading her for years, and was happy to see they felt the same way about her books! Sally is an excellent storyteller. Thank you so much for the excellent #GalleyMatch.

Menu: "Soulmate bars—peanut butter & jelly—the ultimate soulmate of food! And “The Drop Martini” —a cranberry lemon drop martini, that will send you over the edge after only a few! " 

Get Lit Book Club, Coto de Caza, California, and April's Book Chat, Frisco, Texas

THE STORIES WE TELL: Every Piece of Your Story Matters by Joanna Gaines (Harper Select . 11/8/22)
The first solo memoir from the Magnolia co-founder.

April's Book Chat: THE STORIES WE TELL sparked lively conversations and reflections among our members. Many members resonated with Gaines' experiences of racial hate and bullying, finding validation in their own experiences with mixed heritage. The book inspired us to consider journaling as a means of processing life's events and thoughts, and we appreciated the pearls of wisdom scattered throughout the text. While some members debated whether the book was self-help or memoir, others simply enjoyed it for what it was. We recommend this book to fans of personal development books.

We met at Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea Shops at Creekside in Frisco, Texas, a cozy spot with a welcoming atmosphere reminiscent of Gaines' own design style, making it the perfect location for our discussion."

Get Lit: "We’re all fans of Chip and Joanna’s and enjoyed learning more about her. Chip is so funny and Joanna always appears to be calm, so it was interesting learning about her childhood and the difficulties she faced.

“Everyone agreed the book was a fast read and we enjoyed getting to know Joanna and her story, earning about how she grew up, met Chip, how they started their business and raised children in a world that can be harsh sometimes. We discussed ‘growing up being ‘different’ than her classmates and how we overcame that. Some members found junior high to be difficult while others struggled in high school. We recommend it to those who enjoy memoirs/ nonfiction/self-help. Fans of Chip and Joanna should pick up THE STORIES WE TELL, and sit down to read it with some biscuits and jam as we did!”
Menu: “We made and discussed recipes from THE MAGNOLIA TABLE COOKBOOK! We enjoyed Joanna‘s famous biscuits, silo cookies, scones, and stuffed mushrooms. Joanna is gifted with her baking and decorating— such a unique individual."

Jensen Beach County Club's Womens Book Club of Florida,  The Wine Club With a Book Problem of Acworth, Georgia, and Blu Stocking Literary Society of West Allis, Wisconsin
THE JEWELER OF STOLEN DREAMS by M.J. Rose (Blue Box, 2/23)

A tale of two passionate women— a  famous jewelry designer who fights to protect her company and rescue the man she loves, and an auctioneer whose gifts reveal a secret that endangers her very life, 

Jensen Beach County Club:  “We loved the descriptions of the jewelry that Suzanne Belperron made and the majority of us had researched Suzanne's designs after reading the book.A good match for our book club. We enjoy historical fiction or books with strong women. This novel features a dual timeline— France, 1942, and New York, 1986. Suzanne is a sought-after jewelry designer in France and her longtime lover and business partner, Bernard has been arrested by the Nazis. Violine is an appraiser for an auction company in 1986 and has been approached by Paul Osgood about selling family antiques. While visiting his home, she discovers a hidden compartment in a vintage Louis Vuitton case containing WWII-era jewelry. Violine is gifted with learning the history and secrets of objects she touches, and their owners and realizes that the jewelry has a long and tragic history. Violine and Paul work together to discover the history of the case and the jewelry. We discussed how Dixie and Suzanne demonstrated this in their work for the resistance movement."

Menu: "French rose wine, croissants, olives, brie, baguettes with French butter, chocolate mousse, cheesecake, dark chocolate squares, and cappuccino."

The Wine Club With a Book Problem "THE JEWELER OF STOLEN DREAMS is a captivating and powerful story that grabs you from the first page— a good match for as we like historical fiction with strong women. We enjoy books in which we learn something new, and the story prompts us further investigate a topic—in this case, Suzanne Belperron, one of the most innovative jewelers of her time, and her jewelry designs. This intriguing story explored Suzanne Belperron's courage and those who participated in the French Resistance by helping Jewish families leave France. We liked the novel's alternating dual timelines—Paris 1942 and New York 1986—which link Suzanne and Violine, an art historian/appraiser with a  supernatural gift.  We noted that this is the first book we've read that involves psychometry.” 

Rose has written a beautiful and descriptive story. We recommend this book to those that enjoy magical realism, suspense, and World War II fiction."

Menu: "Brie, apples, Classic French Salad (romaine, tarragon, chives, walnuts with a lemon vinaigrette, Ina Garten's Bouef Bourguignon, Mashed Potatoes, macarons. truffles."

Blu Stocking: An excellent selection for our club. This story was fascinating and the psychometry was an interesting twist. We enjoy reading about real people in history within a historical fiction context. While the characters are placed in a fictional story, there is much to take away. Several of us did some research on Suzanne Belperron and her jewelry designs. We also like the alternating timeline. robust discussion. We discussed psychometry's 'unbelievable' aspect juxtapositioned with an equally 'unbelievable' period of history as the holocaust. Also, we talked about the courage and actions of people in this world that are so brave and committed even in the face of personal danger, as well as the variety of themes—determination, strength of character, hope, faith, and love in all its incarnations, lovers (Suzanne/Bernard/Jean), friends (Suzanne & Dixie) and love of country/places (France)”

Curious Book Club,  Frederick, Maryland; St. Louis Women’s Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri; First Saturday Book Club, Pensacola, Florida

PRACTICE GIRL by Estelle Laure (Penguin Teen, 5/22)
A novel about a girl who rejects her label and decides for herself who she is to the world—about reputation and double standards,

St. Louis Women’s Book Club: “The themes were fantastic and the character was so likable. This YA novel explores high school, sexuality, friendships, and relationships. The themes of finding first loves and figuring out who you are made for great conversation! We discussed how high school is portrayed in the media today— are students really doing drugs, alcohol, and sex, as much as they portray? The book was well written and it was easy to visualize the small town high school. There were great moments in the friendships and relationships that are good lessons for that demographic.

Curious Book Club: “It was fun to read a book we typically wouldn’t have chosen - we hadn’t even heard of this one!t’s a YA coming of age/romance that features an angsty teenager that is coping with the loss of a parent and being used by boys who she thinks care for her. The story focuses on the challenges of dating and sex in high school. We loved the friendship storyline that developed throughout the book. Although the main character is very angsty, the emotions were real and raw throughout the story.  We thought that the ending of the story was the most interesting! We loved that Jo was able to have a heart-to-heart with her mom and stepdad to build a better relationship with her family. We all were in favor of the guy she chooses in the end! l. Recommended for those who enjoy YA coming-of-age stories.”

Menu: We met at a diner because there was a diner in the story!

First Saturday Book Club: "We had a great discussion about PRACTICE GIRLan honest, moving YA read that should be in the hands of more teens. PRACTICE GIRL offers a strong look at what it means to participate in a relationship and the need for teens to understand the ramifications of sex and responsibility and dedication to relationships. The author writes with emotional depth—we feel everything Jo goes through, and we root for Jo to win at wrestling and life. It’s clever, charming, and poignant. 

We discussed teenage behaviors: that Jo was not responsible for Sam kissing her yet she is blamed, how girls need to have girl relationships so they have support, the importance of family, taking others into consideration while establishing boundaries, and understanding the relationship before sex. Also, that growing up and having friendships change is difficult but a part of growing up. We all enjoyed this coming-of-age novel, recommended for this for groups that enjoy YA lit with emotional depth."

Happy Bookers, Linn Missouri, Lit Ladies Read Melbourne, Florida, and St. Louis Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri; and Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York
WEYWARD by Emila Hart (St. Martin's Press, 3/23)

A novel weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries— a story of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world

Happy Bookers: “A gem of a book with resilient female characters is our favorite GalleyMatch to date.”- on a novel weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries— a story of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world, read with galleys from
“Hart has given us much to ponder in a most bewitching tale. Altha, Violet, and Kate will long stay with us for their resilience and fortitude. We agreed that witchcraft isn’t accomplished through spells, but by their connection to the world around them -— and that was most appreciated and enjoyed. We cheered at the comeuppance of the perpetrators who caused harm both physical and mental to the female characters. We discussed the plight and strength of women over the ages dealing with similar treatment. The three women characters were enthralling. The author wove the three timelines of the Weyward women’s lives together expertly. Their plight, resourcefulness, and special powers along with their ties to nature and their strength to survive amidst adversity and ill-treatment earn these characters a place in your heart. The short chapters breeze along while keeping the depth of the characters and story strong. Highly recommended by our group to fellow readers. The perfect fall read. The perfect anytime read! Cannot wait to read more from this author.”

Menu: Orton stew (chicken and rice soup) W pendant cakes(cupcakes), Witches sticks and twigs (fried tortilla strips), Cottage dip (cowboy caviar), Crow Bars (brownie bites), Insect Wings(corn chips), Graham Crackers(saltines and wheat thins), and Morgs(moon drop grapes)in a member’s backyard and woods for our book reenactments."

Lit Ladies Read:“ We loved everything about this book! This is a very compelling read that highlights the connection between women, family, and nature."
WEYWARD is a beautifully written story about the strength and resilience of three different women. The story is told in alternating timelines, in different centuries leaving the reader to wonder how these women are related. The Weyward women all face similar, yet different, hardships of violence, abuse, and expectations of society that they must overcome. The women all have a very strong connection to nature and find strength and inner peace through this connection. The alternating timelines advance the story and keep you wanting more. The descriptive language paints a clear picture, and we loved the alternating timelines—each character's story was compelling and gave a feel for what these women had to endure. We spent quite a bit of time discussing the treatment of women who were deemed ’weird’ throughout history. It is frightening to think that there was a period in history when women could be labeled witches and executed based on nothing more than conjecture and failure to conform to societal expectations. Altha's storyline, in particular really highlighted how ludicrous the idea of witchcraft really is and how scared people were of anyone who was different. Another hot topic was domestic abuse and how difficult it can be for abused women to escape their abuser. Both Kate's and Violet's stories dealt with physical and sexual abuse that required both women to find the strength to remove themselves from their situations. We recommend for those who enjoy stories about women finding their inner strength to overcome hardship.”

Menu: Witching Hour Cabernet Sauvignon and witch hat cupcakes.

St. Louis: "WEYWARD was intense, honest and deeply connected to today’s time The three timelines and main character add layers of interconnected themes and details. At first glance, these are very different women but ultimately all face similar situations. We discussed feminism and the growth of women throughout time, how the patriarchy impacts women’s abilities to make choices, and Nature vs nurture—these women all were born to be Weyward, not raised to be Weyward.
Recommended for those who enjoyed THE LOST APOTHECARY by Sarah Penner; three perspectives or time periods in stories; the power of nature; books about powerful women and the ability to be strong despite the circumstances and external environment. This book has some trigger warnings that I think all readers need to be extremely mindful of before reading (physical/verbal abuse, parental abuse, rape, pregnancy loss, abortion, jail).

Reading Between the Wines: “This book was a perfect match for our club. We all enjoyed this story of three women from the same family line at different points in time. There was so much to discuss here: our connection to the natural world, overcoming trauma, giving yourself grace, and the strength and resilience of women, feminism, women’s connection to the natural world, family legacies, and overcoming trauma We thought the author did a great job incorporating the interconnected stories of Althea, Violet, and Kate. Recommended to book clubs that enjoy women’s fiction, historical fiction with dual timelines, and a touch of magical realism.

Menu: "Food to honor the garden at Weyward cottage, including veggie crackers with garden vegetables, and basil cheese, roasted vegetable pizza, and fresh veggies with hummus. We also had blueberry scones with jam and tea and biscuits as a nod to the English settings in the book."

Longwood Ladies, Goshen, Kentucky and Colonies Book Club, Yorkville, Illinois
ANGELS OF THE RESISTANCE by Noelle Salazar ( Mira,/ HTP, 11/22)
A story inspired by true events, about courageous women who risked everything for their country, family, and each other

Longwood Ladies: “ANGELS OF THE RESISTANCE was a great book club book.We all loved learning about a neutral country. It was a new take on that era that we all really enjoyed! We discussed how much we learned about the World War II era, We talked a lot about and enjoyed the fact that it shined the light on a true sister act.  It was the first historical fiction I’ve read that took place in the Netherlands during World War II. It was a refreshing change to hear the trials from a neutral neighbor. The characters were easy to relate to and love and my heart was wrenched by their bravery and struggles. We fell in love with the characters —they were strong, intelligent, patient women right from the start and their growth and determination were astounding. We recommend ANGELS to those who enjoy historical fiction and reading about strong women! If you enjoyed THE LILAC GIRLS, ROSE CODE, or Salazar’s first book, FLIGHT GIRLS, you will enjoy this historical fiction. We all thank you immensely!”

Colonies Book Club: "Some members were in tears throughout this beautifully told story of two young sisters who risk everything for their homeland during World War II. Our members loved this book. Some comments: A heart-wrenching read that is full of tenderness, resilience, courage, brutality, and devotion. The author did a great job of opening our eyes to the hardships of living through Nazi occupation Salazar demonstrated how strong the bonds of sisters, family, and friends are in a powerful way. This story is told from the perspective of a young teenage girl and how innocence is lost through the actions necessary to fight the evil that ripped her country apart. We were unfamiliar with the occupation of the Netherlands and learned about their struggle with starvation and freezing during the last years of the war. We couldn’t imagine girls getting involved with the resistance and what they were willing to do for their country. We all felt the guilt that Lien carried throughout her life over her little sister's death and the catalyst that was for her to join the resistance. We loved the epilogue and the closure it gave us about all of the character

Literary Lovelies, Yonkers, New York; Reckless Readers, East Lyme, Connecticut: CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut
THE VILLA by Rachel Hawkins(St. Martin's Press, 1/23)
A gothic suspense novel set at an Italian villa with a dark history.

Literary Lovelies:" We all loved the book! This book has books within the book!”-“We discussed both storylines and if we found ourselves drawn to one story or the other. Susan loved the dual timelines and thought the Mari storyline felt like a movie! We also discussed whether we saw that Mark and Chess were together. A lot of people had thoughts on Chess! We decided she was either a Love or hate character. We also discussed if you have to like the characters to like a book. Chelsey thought the book reminded her of Rachel’s other books and talked about her distinct writing style. We loved how easy it was to read, and enjoyed the epistolary chapters that enhanced the story. We felt the book wrapped up a little quickly and we wished that Emily had stood up for herself a little more! But the Italy location was a favorite of ours as well as the slight gothic style of the Mari plot line. We recommend THE VILLA to clubs that enjoy dual timelines in beautiful settings! Thank you so much for this opportunity!"

Menu: "We meet virtually, but enjoyed some limoncello while reading the book! Emily and Chess are a little over-served on limoncello their first night in Italy."

CT Lit Book Club: This book had us in a heated discussion about what we would do if we were in the main character’s situation. We found ourselves in a coffee shop yelling about dead husbands and realized we probably should put our books on the tabble so other patrons see we are actually discussing a book!!
“We were excited to preview a Rachel Hawkins title! The majority of us have read THE WIFE UPSTAIRS and RECKLESS GIRLS, along with some of her Erin Sterling books.
We had high expectations for THE VILLA, as it is highly anticipated by the bookstagram community. Overall, we expected it to be more ‘thrilling’, but we enjoyed it and were enthralled wondering what was going to end up happening and how the two stories of what took place at the villa were going to bridge together. One member described her reading experience as the story ‘always having an air of suspicion to keep her intrigued.’ We really loved the setting of the villa in Italy and loved the throwbacks to the 70s! We recommend this book to those that enjoy drama, and books like BIG LITTLE LIES.’

Reckless Readers: "Everyone loved the book, rating it Hawkins’s best yet!"- “This is our second GalleyMatch for a Rachel Hawkins book, and we were very excited! Most members read THE VILLA in two sittings We could not wait to rant about the characters we hated, dissect the twists, and gush over the amazing setting. There was a lot of early chatter in the week before our meeting — those that finished it early could not wait to have our discussion.

The level of betrayal among friends was the biggest discussion. We loved the setting, the dual timelines, and the parallels between them. The twists were nonstop and unexpected, which kept us page-turning. The dual timelines made the story. Going from Emily & Chess presently staying at the Villa, to Mari in 1974, the reader gets the full picture of what really happened at The Villa Aestas. Both stories have parallels that are frightening. It seems that you can’t stay at the Villa without it taking someone from you. There are love triangles, friendship deceits, thrilling reveals, and murder to fit everyone’s appetite. It’s dark and atmospheric in ways we have never seen from Rachel Hawkins. She packed so many surprises into this book, but the last chapter is the biggest. There was a hot debate among the group on whether that last chapter was even necessary. How many twists are too many? We recommend if you enjoy big twisty thrillers that grip you until the end —add it to your preorder list! It's out in January, and will be on everyone’s hot list for 2023!"

Menu: “Italian lemon theme to match book: lemon basil pasta salad, lemon ricotta hot cheese dip, limoncello cocktails.”

Melanie's Book Club, Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Riverside Readers, Plain City, Ohio; Amy's Book Club, Boulder Colorado
A LIGHT IN THE FOREST by Melissa Payne (Lake Union, 2022)
An emotional and suspenseful novel about the weight of secrets and the healing power of friends and family.

Riverside Readers: “We loved the Ohio setting and although Crystal was a made-up town, we have been to similar small towns and could picture the intent while we read. We appreciated the fun and quirky characters with a hint of underlying mystery in the book. don't know. We discussed the small town, the stereotypes, and the reality, not all small towns in Ohio are like that but we knew why the author picked to use the stereotypical poor/mining town in Appalachia. The timelines coordinated well together with the flashbacks. The characters of the small town were unique and we liked how they interacted with each other—they balanced the trauma. The reader's guide for this book was great. Thank you! We love being introduced to new authors and this time it helped build a new small community of readers, as this is a new book club."

Amy's Book Club: "The setting drew us in, the characters moved us, and the story had us in its grip —and caused many of us to stay up way too late reading. Everyone loved the characters and felt invested in their stories, and wanted to know more about some of the more peripheral characters. We discussed, justice, bullies getting away with things, whether the law is involved or not, and how the town changed regarding violence toward the LGBTQIA+ community. We discussed the repetition of ‘running’ at the beginning and how it would have felt to be Vega just trying to escape and survive; the town dynamics and why it was mostly accepted that the Harrisons could bully who they pleased without repercussions — contrasted with the senseless shooting that took place the night before we met in Colorado Springs and whether we thought there would or could be justice.
We discussed which of the lovable/heroic characters we enjoyed the most and whether Vega was a hero or a victim;, the pacing of how quickly Vega developed community in Crystal, secrets and why they should be kept or told; our reactions to Vega checking Instagram and our internal screamings at her of what we wanted her to do, the town's support of Eve, and what would happen next for all of them. We recommend A LIGHT IN THE FOREST to book clubs that enjoy complicated relationships and a multi-decade mystery to unravel."

Melanie’s Book Club:" We loved the opportunity to preview A LIGHT IN THE FOREST. We are reading another Melissa Payne book this month, as a result! Everyone had positive comments and the book made for great conversation. One member who is stingy with book ratings gave our selection 5 stars. This is a thoughtful, well-written book that discusses real-life issues with great character development. A main discussion point was the different social issues addressed in the book and that the author didn't 'preach' about them. Our group has many teachers and nurses in it and this made an impact on us, especially since we see these issues in the lives of our students and patients. We appreciated the character development and that through the different points of view, we were able to put pieces of the puzzle together before Vega did, yet it didn’t take away from the mystery. This book is a must-read! We look forward to seeing if her other books have a similar writing style and theme."

Madame Woods Book Club of Wiscasset, Maine, and Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey
THE WAYS WE HIDE, by Kristina McMorris (Sourcebooks, 2022)
A sweeping World War II tale of an illusionist whose recruitment by British intelligence sets her on a perilous, heartrending path.Madame Woods: “This book changed the way some of our readers perceive historical fiction. We were amazed at the authors’ ability to weave real-life events into an intricate and complex story. McMorris grabbed our attention with her latest novel, based on true facts This character-driven novel has elements of romance and suspense with a bittersweet ending. The novel begins with the main character Fenna whose life was significantly shaped by a stampede on Christmas Eve. Her perseverance from childhood helped her maintain her determination and profound instinct to get through life’s challenges along the way. Fenna, an intelligent character, is shaped by life events and uses those experiences to maneuver through challenges. This novel has elements of history and fiction interwoven in a way that makes the reader feel as though they are right alongside the characters.
We discuss the intricacies of the story and how relatable the main character was. McMorris thoughtfully and seamlessly transitions from a story of romance, into a detail-oriented spy novel, and keeps the reader o n the edge of their seat in anticipation of what direction the story and characters would go next. She challenges the reader to keep up with current and past storylines, all while inserting historical events, distracting the reader - they are well intertwined into the characters' lives and the book’s storylines. THE WAYS WE HIDE offers a variety of themes that would appeal to a large readership. So many beautiful moments, even in the last chapters of the book, that offer a sweet and real conclusion.”Book Club Girls of Sparta: "We enjoyed reading about a part of history we did not know of.Most of us were unaware of the Dutch involvement in the resistance or hadn't heard of this chapter of history where women recruited into the resistance worked on inventing escape aids that were hidden in things like games, and the hiding of clues and maps in ordinary objects was interesting to learn about. The resounding takeaway was the fact that so many people risked everything to help the resistance, to help other humans stay safe. Many questioned whether they would be as brave, especially being a woman. We found the most connecting part of the story was Fennas; bravery, and fearlessness even though she had deep trauma from the fire. We recommend THE WAYS WE HIDE to groups interested in historical fiction about new pieces of World War III history and strong female protagonists."Menu: Tea and speculoos cookies.

Brunch & Books Club, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Literary Fires Everywhere, Cortland Manor, New York
THE BODYGUARD by Katherine Center, (St. Martin's Press, 7/22)
A romantic and humorous romance about a bodyguard, and the movie star she's hired to protect, as they work to keep things professional under crazy circumstances

Brunch & Books: “We discussed the main character’s growth. Everyone enjoyed the love story, but seeing how the character grew into herself from start to finish was what really stood out. She gained confidence and self-respect that she didn’t have at the beginning and that really resonated with members. The discussion questions prompted a good conversation that brought to mind parts of the story we might not have discussed.
I Ioved this fun and funny book with every piece of my heart. It was my first Katherine Center novel and it felt as if I was sitting with a BFF listening to her tell e this hilarious and heartwarming story. 10/10! The Author’s Note alone is worth 5 stars. Don’t skip it! Recommended for those who enjoy funny, happy love stories! We’re so appreciative of the opportunity! “

Literary Fires Everywhere: "We all enjoyed this book. I am definitely not a regular rom-com reader— I usually find myself rolling my eyes at plots that make others swoon— but I really did love this book. It’s super cute, engaging, and the characters feel real. Even the setting popped right off the page! Definitely recommend grabbing this one!

Hannah has been hired to be a bodyguard to Jack, a Hollywood burnout who would prefer not to have a bodyguard. The pair have palpable chemistry, and I quickly found myself rooting for them. We are not huge romance readers and we’re all pleasantly surprised that it was both fluffy and deep, a un reads with a bit of drama. We all loved the touches and the author’s descriptions. (The Bush steak knives)."

Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado;  and Bookish Ladies,  Coto de Caza, California
HESTER by Laurie Lico Albanese (St. Martin's Press, 10/4/22)
A vivid reimagining of the woman who inspired Hester Prynne, the tragic heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and a journey into the enduring legacy of New England's witchcraft trials.
Get Woke: "HESTER’s message empowered us! As Laurie Lico Albanese writes, Hester Prynne is ‘a heroic woman who defies powerful men and vengeful villagers by wearing the symbol of her shame like a badge of courage.’ Heroic women! May we be them and may we raise them!”A major symbol, incorporating the books' themes, was  Isobel's sewing skill and her ability to design and stitch beautiful patterns and scenes that revealed emotions and contained hidden messages.
Each member of the book club was asked to bring a bottle of wine (or another beverage of choice), containing a label that could reflect a 'hidden' message or theme of the story. Our discussion involved each of the members presenting her wine and describing the label, revealing aspects of the novel. These included PROPHECY WINES— The label’s images relate to the supernatural world, and scenes with shooting stars. Isobel struggles to accept her power, and the woman on the label exhibits power.*TEMPTATION AND EVE—Depicts Eve tempting Adam. Isobel’s community shuns her as a witch when she becomes pregnant. EVE elicited discussion on the Bible story – Isobel notes its message about untrustworthy women. GNARLY HEAD WINES—summarizes many characters' mental states: Hawthorne struggles with his family history of witch trials. Isobel struggles with her artistic creations and powers. *KALEIDOSCOPE:— Isabel’s gift enables her to create beautiful designs and messages on clothing and understand others’ emotions. WITCHING HOUR: summarized the novel’s mystery, fantasy, excitement, and passion.
Menu: A ‘community rice bowl’ is symbolic of the support and encouragement women shared in the novel. Member brought ingredients. Along with the theme of wine, dessert bars were labeled ‘Primitive Nuts’: many characters reflect this title!
We  also shared a representation of each member’s name created by a woman with synesthesia.”
Ranch Readers: "We were intrigued by the premise of imagining the woman who inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne's protagonist, Hester Prynne, in his iconic novel, THE SCARLET LETTER, In Hester, they meet -- Nathan is a young struggling writer, who is haunted by his ancestor's treatment of the witches of Salem. and Isobel is a young wife, who recently immigrated from Scotland, and has been deserted by an opium-addicted husband who left her destitute. Isobel supports herself by creating exquisite embroidery and also through the kindness of others in town. She has synesthesia-a sensory phenomenon in which she sees letters and sounds expressed in colors. Isobel learns at an early she to hide this ability so that she would not be called a witch, but she uses her extraordinary skill to create beautiful work. We agreed that the book's language was very descriptive and enthralling and we had a long discussion about our own creative processes that have enriched our life.

We thought character of 'Hathorne' -- what the author calls Hawthorne-- could have been developed a bit further as he seemed shallow and his treatment of Isobel seemed dismissive. The social issues of the time were well highlighted by the author with a concurrent story of the Witch Trials in Salem, the plight of fleeing saves using the Underground Railroad, the mistreatment and victimization of women who had no rights, the struggles of prejudice that immigrants face in America We enjoyed the novel and feel it is going to become a best seller - it was definitely a compelling read!

Menu: Bee-shaped tea cakes and chocolate and lemon lavender scones to enjoy with tea and coffee.

Bookish Ladies: "Everyone enjoyed the book and a fresh reboot of The Scarlet Letter. The author did a wonderful retelling and we loved the characters and the story. We had a great discussion and we’re so happy to have this fun experience. We highly recommend HESTER! One member loved the book so much that she took a trip to Salem - ok it was a brilliant coincidence that she was going there!"

Menu: "Many colorful vegetables mentioned in the book."

Famished for Fiction, Plano, Texas and Cork and Olive Book Club, Valrico, Florida
HALF-BLOWN ROSE by Leesa-Cross Smith (Grand Central, 2022)
A novel about a woman remaking her life after her husband’s betrayal leads to a year of travel, art, and passion in Paris.

Famished for Fiction: “We had a great time discussing HALF-BLOWN ROSE! This book really stretched us!" We discussed infidelity quite a bit: some members felt that the current problem —the marriage— needed to be resolved before embarking on another adventure—a relationship with Loup. We discussed that Vincent and Loup being independently wealthy contributed to their ability to just 'do as they pleased'. Vincent runs off to Paris; she and Loup travel by train to visit Theo, and family. Her family’s laid-back attitude when she shows up with Loup is a bit shocking; but, put into the context of their family, it made sense. SPOILER ALERT: We felt the ending left questions unanswered...maybe a sequel is in the plans? We would love to know if Vincent will return to Cillian, stay with Loup or go out on her own. We felt she was d searching for her freedom by leaving Kentucky and fleeing to Paris; but, in the end, becomes more tied down with the pregnancy. We recommend this book to those who enjoy Paris, romance, art, and secrets."Menu: We loved that the novel was set in Paris so we met at a French restaurant, Toulouse Cafe & Bar for quiche, Toulouse salad, lobster rolls, lobster risotto, and rose-themed drinks: French 77 and Rose all-day punch."

Cork and Olive: We looked forward to HALF-BLOWN ROSE, as we enjoyed Leesa’s novel THIS CLOSE TO OKAY and this did not disappoint! We enjoy her writing style—a phenomenal writer!” There was much discussion about whether Vincent should have led her husband on, whether it was wrong for her to be with Loup before a decision about her marriage, and whether she should have reached out to Tully and his mother. No one liked Cillian's actions and would have preferred Vincent to end her marriage if she was going to go be with someone else. We discussed Vincent's relationship with her children and the growing relationship with Tully, who we loved. There was concern that Vincent spent more time on Tully with her children, although we know that she loved them - she just didn't share as much of herself with them. We all want an epilogue!! We agreed that we needed to know what Vincent decided. Some hoped she kicked both Cillian and Loop to the curb, stayed in Paris, and raised the baby herself. Some thought she might have both... We loved that she decided to just do whatever she felt— eat pastries, sleep during the day, do whatever her spirit felt, while she proces

sed this punch in the gut to her life.
We enjoyed the references to food, art, books, and music. It was SO brilliant that Leesa created Vincent's Spotify playlists. We were delighted to see videos and references to characters on @anchoismusic. What a great way to bring the book to life! C'est bon bon bon! We recommend this novel to those who enjoy travel, art, and passion.”

Menu: "Our menu featured foods referenced —wonderfully varied and not all French! Cranberry Meatballs and Mashed Potatoes, Chickpea Stew, Fig Jam and Cheese with crackers, Rosemary Flatbread with Hummus and Olives, Pain au Chocolat, Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, and of course, Champagne!

Sensational Seven of Appleton, Wisconsin, Literary Lovelies of Yonkers, New York Junior League of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Sensational Seven of Appleton, Wisconsin, Finer Things Book Club of Brentwood, California
THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK by Ellen Marie Wiseman (Kensington, 8/22)
The story about the Willowbrook State School, the Staten Island mental institution that shocked a nation when exposed in the 1970s as a dumping ground for unwanted children.

Sensational Seven: "We are fortunate to read this new novel from a favorite author! Once again, Ms. Wiseman has so eloquently written about another of our nation’s past social injustices. We compared our strong responses to the novel with other books with difficult topics. She has shed light on a piece of our history that is so important to learn about. Her take on Willowbrook through the eyes of sixteen-year-old, Sage Winters, was a riveting ‘page-turner.’ When Sage discovers her twin sister, Rosemary, was alive and had been institutionalized for years at Willowbrook; she courageously heads to the school to rescue her. We discussed our emotional responses in realizing that these atrocities occurred in our lifetime and in our country Our discussion centered on how the children’s parents felt after learning the truth of events at the ‘school.’ We were sad and horrified over Willowbrook, and had for the staff and media who were crucial to its closure. We felt grateful for the advancement in care and treatment of the mentally ill and incapacitated members of our society today.”

Menu: "Our take on related food/drink: White chicken chili, representing the colorless mush that residents at Willowbrook were served daily. We also drank Tequila Sunrises, a popular cocktail in 1972, using orange juice. In the novel, the nurses mixed medication in orange juice to keep the residents sedated. No meds were used by our book club- only tequila and grenadine in the OJ!”

Junior League of Kalamazoo: “We enjoy historical fiction and mystery and this was the best of both worlds!”Some members recently toured a State Hospital in Michigan and were able to compare what they learned with Willowbrook. Ellen Marie Wiseman joined us via Zoom to answer questions about how she researched the book and where the ideas came from— including the big twist. It was especially fun because she had been at the memorial at Willowbrook the day before and was able to tell us about meeting some of the doctors and attendants who helped to blow the whistle, per se. We discussed society during this time, and why it was often recommended for parents to place children in a place like Willowbrook. We discussed how parents could see their child in that state, not say anything- many of us agreed that during that time, people deferred to 'authority’ and took the doctors at their word. Today, parents question and challenge authority, especially when it comes to doctors and teachers. We agreed this was one of the saddest stories we had heard and had time wrapping our heads around the fact that while it’s a fictional story the setting, conditions, and many of the characters were real. We also didn’t see the twist coming (Ellen said that even her editor didn’t see that one!).”

Menu: "Pancakes and bacon, a build-your-own-oatmeal bar, and orange juice —spiked with champagne instead of sedatives, as in the book."

Literary Lovelies: "This was truly a fascinating book that led to a great discussion about mental health. We couldn't believe it was based on a true story! We all loved this fascinating story, and it was heartbreaking to know it was based on a real situation. The subject matter was difficult but we all enjoyed the historical fiction and somewhat true crime genre in this well-written and detailed novel. Wiseman graphically describes the school, where employees brutalize and demean their residents. It’s after a reporter sneaks into the facility— the journalist is Geraldo Rivera, who was instrumental in getting the facility rehabbed and shut down —that light is shed on these inhumane conditions. We discussed the women brought to this facility, mental health, and the management of those needing special care. It was terrible that couldn’t speak up for themselves, and that no one ever checked on them This dark and gritty story will stay with us for a long time—it was so interesting and led to a fabulous discussion. This is my first time reading this author and I will be looking for more of her books."⁣

Elizabeth's Book Chat, Frisco, Texas; Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey; North Wales Area Public Library; Pennsylvania
WHEN WE LET GO  by Rochelle Weinstein

A novel about mothers and daughters, loss and acceptance, the lessons that come from heartbreak, and the healing it takes to embrace the joy of a second chance.Elizabeth’s Book Chat: "A wonderful match We had a very lively discussion with author Rochelle Weinstein and the book was so well received. Everyone loved it! There were different elements of the story that each of us could relate to which made it even more interesting. The author's style of writing is genuine and heartfelt. As we read the words on the page, we also were able to actually feel the emotions. What was very interesting was when members asked Rochelle where the idea for the tree came from. The response kept everyone chatting for a while. Great interaction!”
Menu: Charcuterie board, lemon cake, and wine

Book Club Girls Sparta: “A new author to us, and this moving story was enjoyed by all. Many could relate to the protagonist's profound level of loss and trauma and how one moment in her young life altered her future relationships with those closest to her. Trauma, grief, mother-daughter, sister, family, forgiveness, strength, and courage were all key factors that resonated with our readers. We discussed the importance of self-care and women surrounding themselves with people they can trust and open up to, and give themselves permission to move on and heal. We enjoyed the mother/ daughter theme. Read this moving novel if you are looking for a story of mothers, daughters, first love, second chances, and the powerful bond of sisters. “

 

Menu: "Wine and chocolate for self-care, a summer picnic with farm-to-table foods, lemonade, tea, and homemade fruit pies, based on Avery's garden and farm."
North Wales Area Library Book Club: “A big THANK YOU! This book was excellent! The believable characters drew readers in, and the settings were easy to picture. Several interesting relationships and ways of dealing with loss were explored. It was a well-built novel with interesting situations about dealing with grief, family relationships, and trust."

Over-Readers Anonymous of Cumming, Georgia, Reckless Readers of Eastford, Connecticut, Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey, Wine Club with a Book Problem, Woodstock, Georgia
OVERKILL by Sandra Brown (Grand Central, 8/22)
A crime thriller in which a conflict of conscience between a former football star and an ambitious state prosecutor swiftly intensifies into a fight for their lives.

Reckless Readers: "OVERKILL satisfied the thriller need, romance desire, and contemplative fiction we all love. It was an excellent book club book that sparked much conversation: the question of whether or not we would want to stay alive, or if we could actually pull the plug ourselves on a loved one, after being in a coma with no brain activity. The characters had moral and religious struggles with this choice, and we empathized with them. We loved the spicy romance in the book —with much discussion about how much more of it everyone wanted—as well as the direction of the story. Eban’s character sent us on another heated conversation about entitlement and the evils that wealth can add to an already evil person’s being. Sandra Brown did an excellent job of making us hate him, and kept us page-turning hoping for a better outcome. Recommended for book clubs that enjoy a little romance in their thriller, and heavy discussion points."

Menu: "Our drink—the Blue Overkill (vodka blue Curacao, and pineapple juice) was tasty, like Zach, and packed a punch like Kate. Paired with charcuterie."

Over-Readers Anonymous: “We recommend OVERKILL for those who enjoy crime fiction, suspense thrillers, and contemporary issues with a little romance thrown in! Our book club has enjoyed several Sandra Brown novels, they're entertaining and also touch on issues that lead to a deeper discussion. We discussed the ethical dilemma at the foundation of OVERKILL and delved into medical ethics, end-of-life planning, the characters, the plot, the judicial system, and the celebrity spotlight. As we all have roots in the south, we liked the Atlanta, New Orleans, and North Carolina settings. OVERKILL was action-packed and easy-to-read."

Menu: “As a BBQ menu was suggested by the author, met at a local restaurant for pulled pork!." (see Sandra Brown's recipe)

Book Club Girls: "An enjoyable read with developed characters an incredible, setting, and suspense well paced throughout the book.  We discussed what we would do if faced with the same situation as Zach even though none of our members have had to face this situation. What many of us thought should have been a clear-cut choice, as we wove through the narrative we came to understand that there were so many layers to this that came into play that it wasn't as simple as we believed in the beginning. The most hated character was the villain Eban and although he is fictional, we agreed there are real people in the world like him. When you are so wealthy that you can make so many disastrous choices as a human with no consequences was highlighted. What would have happened to someone else who wasn't as wealthy? Also, we all agreed that no one really thought about Rebecca, until they were forced to, which led us to agree it was unacceptable for her to continue to be victimized in a way for so very long. But, if she was allowed to let go in the beginning, there wouldn't be as much of a plot line for the book. Loved the premise of the story, it gave lots of topics for discussion.

Menu: "We recommend bbq, pulled pork sandwiches, cole slaw, baked beans, and any tailgating type of foods that would be a nod to North Carolina and football."

Wine Club with a Book Problem: "OVERKILL is a good thought-provoking story. The topic of life support and having your affairs in order gave us a good discussion, and we enjoyed the setting of Atlanta since we live in the area. Former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Zach Bridger has MPA for his ex-wife, Rebecca, who has been placed on life support after a violent assault. Zach has kept Rebecca on life support for 4 years to honor her parent's wishes. The attacker, Eban, gets an early release from prison and Kate Lennon, a brilliant state prosecutor, is determined to put him back behind bars. If Rebecca were to die, Eban could be retried on a new charge: murder. Zach is asked to make an impossible choice: keep her on life support or take her off and put Eban back in prison. We discussed that no one really thought about Rebecca. Zach was concerned about how he would be portrayed by the media, her father keeping her alive to punish Zach, and Eban boasting how his father's money got him out of prison early and now he can bet back to partying. It was unacceptable to keep Rebecca on life-support for so long.

Menu: "There are many football analogies and football references throughout the book. We put together a Tailgate Football Menu: Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Balsamic Fig Infused Burger Bites, Wings, Homemade Salsa & Chips plus Guacamole, Buffalo Chicken Dip, Pizza Pepper Poppers."

Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York; Page Ladies, Cleveland, Ohio; Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; CT Lit, Bridgeport, Connecticut; Kings Chapel Book Club  Arrington, Tennessee,
ALL MY RAGE by Sabaa Tahir (Penguin Teen, 3/22)

A contemporary novel about family and forgiveness, love and loss, in a sweeping story that crosses generations and continents.

Reading Between the Wines: "We all enjoyed the book and thought the author did a wonderful job of creating flawed and 'real' characters that we grew to care about."This was a great match for our club. Our discussion included immigrants' struggles to preserve their culture while trying to achieve the American Dream, the nature of generational trauma, the opioid crisis, and the role of faith in people's lives- so many things to discuss! We became invested in the characters of Noor and Sal and the traumatic events that they and their families, experienced impacted us, and provided a lot of jumping-off points for discussion. Watching their growth throughout the novel gave it a hopeful ending. We loved this book and were fully invested in these characters, and reading it was a very emotional journey. Recommended to clubs that enjoy books discussing contemporary themes, strong characters, and emotional reads.

Menu: We met at a local Indian/Pakistani restaurant to enjoy food discussed and eaten in the novel: chai tea, poori, halwa, Chicken Kashmiri, and paratha, among other dishes!

Page Ladies: “We went in expecting a contemporary story about friendship and forgiveness but what we got was so much more. Thank you, Sabaa Tahir, for sharing this devastating but absolutely beautiful story with us! This is a powerful story that affected each of us differently. It's one that will stay with us for a long time. Until The Fight Salahudin and Noor were more than friends; they were family. Now, Sal is struggling with keeping his family's motel afloat as his mother's health fails and his father loses himself to alcoholism. Meanwhile, Noor is working at her uncle's liquor store and hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him and Juniper forever. Sal and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst. This is an emotional and moving story about friendship, forgiveness, and heartache; it’s like taking a deep dive into a pool full of emotions. Grief, betrayal and forgiveness, loss, rage— you will feel every single one and more in this book. No one from our book club was able to finish this book with dry eyes. There are so many topics that were brought up and all were not easy to discuss: death, drugs, prejudice, and physical abuse. The writing is absolutely wonderful—Sabaa Tahir is a fabulous storyteller. She has a way with words that touches each of her readers.“

Get Woke Book Club “Members arrived with books displaying colorful post-it tabs, which visually reflected the common greeting, 'there is so much to think about in this novel!A group of mothers and grandmothers very much enjoyed the novel by a young adult author and its detailed and realistic picture of the struggles that immigrants face in relocating to the United States and of the family traditions and secrets that follow the immigrants to their new home. The culture and religious traditions of Pakistan were vividly described in an engaging storyline and beautiful prose. The main plot follows the lives of two Pakistani teens, who are struggling with school, personal tragedies, and love. They are surrounded by other well-drawn characters who add depth to the story. We discussed the many plot lines and themes: diversity, forgiveness, hope, family relationships, communication, secrecy, and loss. Tahir fills the novel with music, probably an excellent technique for adolescent readers—they can easily relate to the messages and emotions through familiar songs.  Noor uses songs and their lyrics to help cope with the conflicts in her life. 

Members shared selfies with short reflections:  “Music plays a role in helping us deal with life’s adversities.*  When is a relationship worth salvaging?  *Fortunately forgiveness does not have an expiration date. It waits and always hopes to be the last word. *Peeling through the complicated layers of life we can see, appreciate and begin to understand one another. * One of my favorite quotes ‘Great passions grow into monsters in the dark of the mind; but if you share them with loving friends they remain human, they can be endured.’ * Tahir effectively introduces sections with lines from  Elizabeth Bishop's poem, “One Art.  Many characters ‘lost’ things: family, money, businesses, dignity. A lesson we all may need is that losing isn’t always bad.: 'the art of losing’s not too hard to master’ *While keeping a secret is meant to protect someone at some point, keeping that secret might be doing more harm.”

CT Lit Book Club: "We’ve been exploring new genres, and we enjoyed ALL MY RAGE, a heartbreaking story that touches on a lot of sensitive topics which gave us plenty to discuss.ALL MY RAGE introduced us to Pakistani culture. This young adult story follows two Pakistani teens growing up in a small town in California and the grim realities of their American dream. Even through difficult times their cultural norms held them together as a family, even if not by blood, the young adult characters are each facing their own struggles—the death of a loved one, racism, alcoholism, drugs, abuse— they are navigating grief, failure, and forgiveness, and must ultimately lean on one another to make sense of the chaos they are facing. It was shocking to imagine our younger selves in situations like these and we spent time reflecting on how the kids navigated various situations. One that stood out is how Salahudin and Noor dealt with the drug bust, and how their relationship persevered. We also discussed how Salahudin came to terms with his abuse. We recommend ALL MY RAGE for clubs learning about other cultures, family drama, and historical fiction."

Kings Chapel: “Thank you for the chance to read this insightful novel. We had a fabulous discussion and I think it was good to read outside our usual genres. This is a heart-wrenching story about two teens from Pakistani families living in Juniper, California, dealing with tough circumstances, basically all by themselves. We don’t read much YA, It was out of the comfort zone for most of the ladies. but the tough topics represented in this story, such as grief, alcoholism, physical abuse, and racism, were easier to handle in the Young Adult format. Understanding why the characters made the choices they did was something we discussed quite a bit. As teens, they made decisions that were wrong but for the right reasons and it was interesting to get in the minds of these teens and try to understand why. As parents, it was hard to read at times, feeling so sad for these kids who have had such a hard life. But seeing them grow and learn from mistakes and stand up for others, gave the book a nice redemption quality in the end. Recommended for groups that enjoy YA coming of age and social justice." 



Reckless Readers, East Lyme, Connecticut, Chilly Thrillies, Tulsa, Oklahoma;
Lit Ladies Read, Melbourne, Florida; Thrillers by The Book / Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas;
Thrillers by The Book / Costa Mesa, California, CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut recommend:
THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur 7/22)
Paris Peralta is suspected of killing her celebrity husband, and her long-hidden past now threatens to destroy her future.

Reckless Readers: An excellent match! Everyone was excited to talk about the twists. We had much to discuss with THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK. Members were messaging before we met, needing to talk about the book as they were finishing it. It was like a month-long meeting, behind the scenes! Usually, if continuous discussion is prompted, the book was a hit. To say the book was twisty is an understatement. This book was twisty than a country back road! A few of us seasoned readers predicted the big twists, but most of us were surprised and shocked. Together, we all needed to unload about the horrendous mothering and terrible situations that Joey was put in throughout her childhood. All of the women in our group are mothers, which makes the book hit us so much harder. But the book wasn’t just about sexual abuse and trauma. There is a high-profile murder that could potentially unearth secrets that need to be kept hidden. The conversation got animated when we discussed Joelle's charge with murder, and there was much discussion about the relationship between Ruby and Joey. As mothers, we found it hard to imagine how Ruby could treat Joey the way she did and put her in such horrible situations. It was heartbreaking and disturbing ."

Chilly Thrillies: “Thank you for giving our group the gift of a 5-star read, a perfect match! We were engaged from start to finish and loved how much there was to discuss. It had the thrills of a book with great character development and storyline. We discussed narcissism and how it affects relationships, specifically parent-child, how the way you are raised affects your instincts and perspective of others, fight or flight and how we would react in certain scenarios in the book, sexual abuse, and its long-term effects, age gap relationships and how people can be evil, but the 'lesser evil.’ We debated which storyline in the dual timeline was more action-packed—something hard to accomplish. Normally, we’re more interested in one storyline, We each were able to predict one of the twists, but we're stumped on the others and loved that there was more than one twist revealed. I was so impressed, I read Hillier’s JAR OF HEARTS. Recommended for those who enjoy a page-turning thriller with complex characters that you root for."

Menu: We made a Filipino Chicken Adobo recipe similar to what Paris makes towards the end of the book (she used pork instead of chicken). We were inspired by her description of how learning to cook was so special when she was going through such a dark time.

Lit Ladies Read: “We enjoyed this twisty, thriller/mystery. and had a very lively discussion! We had so much to discuss. We enjoyed the storytelling, shifting between past and present. and different points of view. This really helped to fully develop the characters. Although some predicted twists, we were still engrossed in the story and wanted to see how things played out.
“Our discussion centered around the characters and their relationships. One of our favorites was that between Jimmy and Paris and the highlight of our discussion was the relationship between Paris/Joey and Ruby. We disagreed about how adult Paris should have handled Ruby and decided that we had to agree to disagree about our feelings towards Paris, but we all agreed that this book was a hit for our group. The mystery is multi-layered, with deep characters. Many members put other books by this author on their ‘to be read’ list."

Thrillers by the Book Club, DFW: "This was our best GalleyMatch, perfect for our group and for book clubs that like dark and twisted mysteries“We all loved how the book started with a very intriguing and captivating scene Joey’s background was very interesting and her relationship with her mother was so toxic. There are a few mysteries in the story. Besides trying to find out if Paris murdered her husband, we’re also trying to work out Paris’ past, how did she go from living with an abusive unstable mother, who is now in prison, to living a wealthy life married to a famous celebrity? I enjoyed Paris’ past the most I loved the intensity in the chapters that focused on Paris’ childhood and upbringing. Ruby, her mother, was such an intriguing and complex character—a terrible mother, self-centered and irresponsible, which caused Paris a lot of pain and uncertainty. While a few members predicted the twist, it didn’t take away from the enjoyment of this dark and suspenseful story.”

Thrillers by The Book, Costa Mesa: “This was an excellent pick for our club! The majority liked or loved this one! Some said it was one of their favorite picks of the year. Many of the members enjoyed the mystery of learning about the murderer in the end, and the alternating timelines of the female main character. There were a variety of opinions about who committed the crime.”

CT Lit Book Club: "This was the perfect match for us! We have been craving a thriller and this was on all of our anticipated release lists. We all enjoyed the book, and were so excited to have a chance to preview it! We discussed how jam-packed this book was with plot points. There was much to hold your attention and give you room to try and predict what would happen. We loved how creative Hillier is— there is one scene in specific that was so creative and will leave us remembering the book forever! (hint hint, ice skates). Half of us had read another book by Hillier, and we all agreed that we want to read more Hiller titles."


The Ladies of Autumnwood, Grand Isle, New York, Mom and I Book Club of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, r
ecommend:

THE MATCHMAKER'S GIFT BY Lynda Cohen Loigman (St. Martin's Press, 9/20/22)
 An intergenerational story about two women—a grandmother and granddaughter—who share the same incredible gift: the ability to identify soulmates

The Ladies of Autumnwood: We loved THE MATCHMAKER’S GIFT! Reading about Raskin’s pickles and the knish shops brought back wonderful memories of shopping at a pickle store in lower Manhattan barrels with barrels on the sidewalk and enjoying a great knish. These memories, among other topics, helped to round out our animated discussion last night. Members didn’t know much about ‘yentas’ or matchmakers and their role in creating Jewish courtship relations. We enjoyed learning about the bravery of the young girl, who beyond the fact that she was Jewish opened our eyes to the challenges of women, not unlike what some have to endure to break that glass ceiling today."
Menu: “We enjoyed Challah and red wine, and took home jars of pickles that I designed with a Raskin’s label.”

My Mom and I: “This pick was perfection. Not only did it match our love of magical realism but we agreed it’s the best book we’ve read this year. You found the perfect book for us!”
“We discussed magic, love, strong women, lovable characters, and the absolute beauty of the writing. We recommend this book to those who enjoy magical realism, foodie fiction, historical fiction, and women’s fiction. The author wrote a book that we treasure and we’re raving about it to everyone. This is a book that you feel like hugging at the end. We absolutely loved it. It’s a gem! “

Menu: "A smorgasbord! We had a blast capturing foods mentioned in the book lox and capers, cornichons— we decorated pickle jars with ‘The Pickle King’, as in the book. We had magical color-changing butterfly tea, as we wanted some magic to go with the story, and chocolate babka for dessert, like our beloved characters baked.

St. Louis Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri;  Mom and I Book Club, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania;  Pittsford Moms Book Club, Pittsford, New York, and Port Wine and Book Society Readers, Port Washington, Wisconsin recommend:
OTHER BIRDS by Sarah Addison Allen (St Martins, Press, 8/30/22)
A novel about a young woman who claims her deceased mother's apartment in an island town, where she meets she meets quirky and secretive neighbors.

St. Louis Women’s Book Club: "A great match! We felt like this was the perfect mix of themes, giving us questions and a variety of topics to discuss. Having an arc made us feel like ‘VIPs’ to the publishing process. This novel was cozy, nostalgic, and heartfelt! Allen’s characters help redefine the word ‘family’ in the most beautiful way. We discussed the definition of home and chosen family, food as a love language —and inspiration for potlucks for book club!! The setting—so realistic and magical, the imagery of the birds and the meaning. OTHER BIRDS takes you on a magical journey of youth, delicately balancing both beauty and sadness. We recommend this book to clubs who are fans of magical realism. It was fuzzy, cozy --the perfect happy read."

Menu: "We made amazing foods to match the book: cornmeal air-fried tomatoes, potato chips on Hawaiian rolls, Mac & cheese, cornbread, Palomas, and marshmallow popcorn."

My Mom and I: "Thank you for a rare opportunity to preview our favorite author’s new book! Sarah Addison Allen's first novel GARDEN SPELLS introduced us to our favorite genre, magical realism. I saved the book for the perfect moment and then tore into it. After waiting eight years for her new book I knew I’d read it too quickly and, that’s what happened We are Italian and loved the ‘found family’ theme and 'food is love' philosophy running through the novel. We enjoyed the foodie talk, animals, ghosts, and magical elements. All characters and storylines were interesting and mysterious; sometimes beautiful, but sometimes ugly but always interesting. Several big reveals had us slack-jawed!

While OTHER BIRDS is a little sadder and darker than her previous works, the magic and the love and the beauty left the reader with a love of the characters and a belief that as the characters live beyond 'the end' of the book all turned out well for them. And you will want that because you will be left loving nearly everything about OTHER BIRDS! We recommend this to those who like magical realism and foodie fiction."

Menu: "Cornmeal marshmallow dishes based on a character: Fluffernutters (marshmallow whip and peanut butter sandwiches), tamale pie stuffed peppers, cornmeal sugar cookies, and marshmallow-flavored lip balm as a keepsake."

Pittsford Moms: "We had so much fun with OTHER BIRDS! We loved this found family story and all the special characters! The novel was a good fit for our club. We try to switch up genres/authors and most members like books with some magic realism elements. We felt it was an easy read and generally flew through the book - Thanks! kept our attention. We loved the story of found family, the characters, and their backgrounds. Books with paranormal/magic realism can be hit or miss for most members but they worked well with this story and added background and historical context for many of the characters. We had a great discussion about the twists and the characters' diverse backgrounds— we would have liked a little more depth to some characters that had very traumatic backgrounds. We recommend OTHER BIRDS to groups that enjoy a touch of magic realism and found family stories!”

Menu: "S’mores bars— the story takes place on Marsh Island and all restaurants in town have something marshmallow on their menu.” 

Port Wine and Book Society: "A great match for our club! We recommend this enchanting story written from the heart, with interesting characters and subplots.”Zoey was such a delightful, open and honest young character— we all adored her. We liked how the story unfolded by hearing different characters' viewpoints in each chapter. The Dellawisps added fun and interest, some of us thought they may have stolen Charlotte's money.  We loved the descriptions of Mallow Island - we live in a small tourist town in Wisconsin and really identified with that. The highlighted passages in Lizbeth’s copy of Sweet Mallow were ironic because she didn't live her life according to any of them - she was so stuck in the past it literally killed her. We enjoyed a unique story, quirky characters, and the theme of food as friendship/love."

Menu: “The detail around food was great! We  made several dishes with corn or cornmeal to celebrate it: Polenta and shrimp, fresh corn salad, corn dip and corn chips, and popcorn.”

CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut; Page Ladies, Cleveland, Ohio; KU Endowment, Lawrence, Kansas; and Girls Clubhouse, Auburn, California recommend
MIRROR GIRLS by Kelly McWilliams (Little Brown, 2/22)
A gothic horror novel about twin sisters separated across the color line after the murder of their parents (YA historical fiction/  magical realism/fantasy).

CT Lit: “MIRROR GIRLS was a great discussion starter and the perfect book to read with a group. It took us out of our comfort zone and was eye-opening, a reminder that segregation is not so far in the past. We are transported to the South—and blatant racism —which as a group of white women living in Connecticut, we don't have experience with. We follow twin sisters Magnolia and Charlie, separated at birth—one raised as Black in New York City and one raised as white-passing in the Deep South— who learn the secret everyone has kept from them. The novel portrayed how indoctrinated people were, and in some cases ready to push racism aside when it would benefit them. We discussed how Charlie's view on life differs after growing up in the more liberal Harlem and compared it to growing up in Connecticut and traveling in different areas in the United States. We recommend this book to clubs that enjoy Brit Bennett's THE VANISHING HALF.”

Page Ladies: "We all enjoyed this historical fiction with a paranormal twist that is both heartbreaking and beautiful. The book offered many different topics, generating a nice discussion: the time period, the girls as individuals, their different upbringings and when they came together, the decision to separate them and not tell them about each other, and much more! A wonderful story about twin girls Charlie and Magnolia who were separated after their parents died for love across the color line and have no idea the other exists. Magnolia. raised in Georgia, is the white heiress to a cotton plantation. Charlie, raised in Harlem with her Nana, is a young Black organizer. When Charlie's grandmother falls ill, they return to Georgia. When the girls do meet Magnolia discovers her reflection has disappeared. They couldn’t be more different, but they will need each other to put the hauntings of the past to rest, break the mirrors’ deadly curse, and discover the meaning of sisterhood in a racially divided land. Seeing the girls come together to create that sisterly bond was wonderful, as is the writing, and pacing. The curse and the ghosts added an interesting twist to the story.”

Girls Clubhouse: "We all enjoyed MIRROR GIRLS and we tried to capture the supernatural aspect of the book with mirror images” Charlie and Magnolia both born in the South but separated at birth live separate lives but face the double threat of racism and ghosts. We discussed how ‘Colored Town ‘is equally foreign to both girls, despite being born there; contrasting with where they were each raised. Magnolia knows the rules of the general area, while Charlie knows how things are done —how stories are told, some traditions. The concept of the veil as the place between this world and the afterlife was used by the author also as the place between the white world and the colored world, which made this gothic story much more intriguing than if it had been singularly used. This forces both girls to examine who they are and what they are willing to live with. Members enjoy supernatural books, and the idea of ghosts to help guide the characters was appealing. We found it to be a ‘light’ supernatural read. We recommend to clubs who enjoy gothic young adult novels."

KU Endowment: "Everyone loved the book. Some members were pleasantly surprised by the way supernatural elements were combined with social commentary and realistic events. The author was able to shine a light on the atrocities of slavery and segregation without being heavy-handed and shows us a playbook for fighting back through the strong and determined sisters, Charlie and Magnolia. The past can haunt us but that doesn't mean it has to control us, and love will conquer hate. One member discussed the book with her 86-year-old mother, who shared memories of her experiences during segregation. We all felt hopeful and inspired by the book and loved the characters. We talked about what it would be like not to know your origins and what would inspire someone to fight against things they know are wrong when it could cost them everything. We recommend to those that enjoy strong characters, historical fiction, and being inspired."

The Revivals Book Club The Revivals, Germantown, Wisconsin; Famished for Fiction, Plano, Texas; Zoom-Chilly Thrillies, Tulsa, Oklahoma
THE CICADA TREE by Robert Gwaltney, Jr.
A novel about an 11-year-old, whisky-drinking, piano prodigy who encounters a wealthy family of supernatural beauty.

The Revivals: “Have we missed out on a genre of remarkable books or were we gifted a gem in a genre we might not have read? The debut novel THE CICADA TREE soared to the top of the 2022 best reads. We dare you not to highlight dozens of richly written sentences; our galleys are filled with colorful post-it notes. The discussion questions gave deeper insight into the themes and allegories we hadn’t considered. We agreed that the book fit into genres of southern gothic, magical realism, and coming-of-age. We explored biblical allegories: good and evil, Jesus, John the Baptist, Cain and Abel, plague, water, and fire. Once every 13 years, the cicadas emerge in tremendous numbers to mate and disrupt human life and comfort; some believe they hold our secrets. Gwaltney has a gift for bringing all together in an unforgettable book appealing to multiple genres and readers. We discussed how music and the song of the Cicadas featured prominently, and the writing allowed us to hear the music as the book’s climax approached. There are themes of coming-of-age, transformation, and rebirth. Gwaltney poetically foreshadows the storyline early as the story’s protagonist, a typical tween experiencing growing pains, insecurity, and self-recrimination sheds her childhood as a cicada does. Triumphing over evil, the novel reaches an angelic and lyrical end. There are as many ways to love this book as there are to interpret it–we dare you to read it! We all loved this novel.”

Menu: Iced Tea, Autumn Apple & Feta Salad, Watermelon Salad, Feta, Mint; Skillet Cheddar Cornbread, Southern Pecan Praline Cookies, Coffee on a garden patio.

Zoom-Chilly Thrillies: We had a great time reading and discussing THE CICADA TREE, a wonderful match that pushed us out of our comfort zone, with its unique blend of genres— historical fiction, fantasy, and mystery. This was a unique story! We agreed it was unpredictable and gave much to discuss. Some words members shared to describe the writing style and story were: Gothic, descriptive, imaginative, twisted, mystical, humorous, innocent, and unpredictable! We were excited about the discussion and most finished it quickly-after the halfway point, unable to put it down.

"We discussed symbolism, class differences, racism, religion, southern culture, character motivations, and family relationships. and how the main character was looking up to a family she aspired to. We discussed our childhood oddities, raised by the mention of the character's liking the feel of pain. We enjoyed that it was told through a child's lens, while dark but the child's perspective ensured curiosity and humor even when horrifying things are happeningThe writing is creative and descriptive and made us think about things such as how you hear music in a new light. The ending was haunting and beautiful and there were many shocked reactions!

"We also discussed the movies or books we thought possibly influenced the author, including REBECCA, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and MEAN GIRLS., We are eager to read Gwaltney's next novel!"

Menu: “Iced tea was sipped!"

Famished for Fiction: “A wonderful opportunity to read a complex story with a bit of mystery and unexpected twists and turns. Our group is diverse, and open to new and different genres, and appreciated the opportunity to discover this book. We discussed the focus of music and its impact on the progression of the story. Music is a major theme throughout the piece, whether it is the music Mr. Mayfield had composed for his wife or the musical virtuosity of the Mayfield children. We explored the cicada's presence: cicadas are seasonal and burrow in the ground, so they are equivalent to all of the secrets that are buzzing around the town of Providence, connecting the Mayfields to Etta Mae and Analeise, and the link between their molting and the growing pains the main characters are experiencing.”

Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado; Books and Brew, Allendale, Michigan;  Carrollton Book Buddies, Carrollton, Texas;
BluStocking Literacy Society, West Allis, Wisconsin

THE CODEBREAKER'S SECRET by Sara Ackerman (Mira, 8/22)
A brilliant female code breaker and a pilot on a top-secret mission come together in this dazzling story of love and intrigue set during America’s darkest hour.

Ranch Readers: Our book club enjoyed this book as we read a non-fiction WWII book about codebreakers and many have traveled to Hawaii so both the theme and setting are familiar. The storyline was realistic and we enjoyed the dual timelines with relevance at the end of the book when the characters are planting a memorial garden on the plantation. We discussed our mother's vital roles during the war, such as working in a war plant, how women were disregarded and treated as second-class citizens, and the situations where the same treatment happens today.We discussed our Hawaiian travels: topography, lava fields, ocean conditions, and coffee plantations. Those that have visited the Mauna Kea Hotel described it. Recommended for book clubs that enjoy historical fiction and WWII stories.”

Menu: “Banana chocolate chip cake/ banana pudding topping, tropical fruit salad, Huli-huli Chicken.”

BluStocking Literacy Society: “
A perfect match! We enjoy historical fiction/mystery that pulls us in and we all anticipated the discussion. We discussed the timeline and connections between the two eras, and the uncertainty that women codebreakers felt reflected by Lu as she struggles to establish herself as a journalist. Isabel walked a line between expressing her intelligence and thoughts and second-guessing herself and stepping back. It was fascinating to consider women in a secret intelligence role and the obstacles they had to overcome.”
Menu: "
Wacky Cake, a classic chocolate cake born of necessity for WWII rationing.”

Carrollton Book Buddies: “A brilliant female codebreaker. An ‘unbreakable’ Japanese naval code. A pilot on a top-secret mission that could change the course of WWII. My book club loved THE CODEBREAKER'S SECRET! The dual timeline novel is set in Hawaii. We enjoyed discussing the amazing roles women played in World War ll. While most of us decided we'd have been secretaries, one member thought the radar plotter sounded like a fit. We appreciated that there were those that worked as mechanics, pilots ferrying planes, medics, and of course, the codebreakers! The Dungeon where the codebreakers worked and the men in charge were a hot topic-the smoke, the drinking, the snobbery, all appalling. Just the thought of approaching the stairs and entering drew lots of remarks! We read the author's explanation of the difference between codes and ciphers and concluded the codebreakers were brilliant! We discussed survivor's guilt, the way Germans, Italians, and the Japanese were treated here in the states, and men in power and misuse of that power. We appreciated the way the threads were all tied up by the ending, though a surprise. The stunning descriptions of the Mauna Kea Hotel and the surroundings have us all wishing for a trip to Hawaii. We appreciated the brilliant, unique roles of women in war."

Menu: "We met at tropical Tommy Bahamas restaurant for a chopped salad with shrimp, coconut shrimp, and Mahi Mahi Tacos. Tropical beverages included. Cloud Coconut Martinis and Jalapeno Margaritas."

Books and Brew: "The story takes place in 1943 and 1965. It's 1943, and Isabel Cooper, who has lost her older brother in the attack on Pearl Harbor, is working as a code breaker, solving Japanese naval codes. Isabel seizes an opportunity to solve codes in Hawaii to locate her brother’s friends and learn about his life. In Hawaii, she stumbles into a life-changing mystery. In 1965, aspiring journalist Lu Freitas is traveling to the Mauna Kea Hotel for its grand opening, when she befriends a famous woman. When her new friend disappears, Lu investigates and soon uncovers a missing link to the past. We discussed women in history, World War II, the relationship between the main character to her friend and her brother's friends, her internal struggle, and women's roles during the war. I was so grateful to have received this book early for my book club! I was so immersed in the characters and their story, I couldn't put it down! Five stars!"

Reading is My Cardio, Smithfield, Rhode Island;  Bookish Ladies, Coto De Caza, California; Next Chapter, Leesburg, Virginia
SIX DAYS IN ROME by Francesca Giacco (Grand Central, 5/22)
A young artist travels to Rome to heal a broken heart, where she confronts loneliness and intimacy, rage and desire in this debut novel.

Reading is My Cardio: "We adored this lyrical and atmospheric debut! It was refreshing to read a book with realistically flawed characters and where not everything gets tied up in a perfect bow. This character-driven story explores relationships in so many forms - family, romantic, and with one's self - and the writing is just beautiful. Truly a perfect book for summer, transporting us to Rome for a captivating six days. We discussed how this isn't a book with a lot of plot and yet it kept us interested throughout. We loved the writing and many of us highlighted passages that we shared and discussed, and the group also touched on whether we'd be able to travel solo as the main character did. Another subject that came up was how the narrative is almost stream of consciousness which some of our group enjoyed more than others. We recommend this book to clubs that enjoy being transported to another place and appreciate character-driven books about self-discovery."

Menu: "Italian-themed cocktail party featuring charcuterie, Aperol Spritzes, and a gelato bar for dessert."

Bookish Ladies: "SIX DAYS IN ROME was beautifully written We enjoyed the food and descriptions around Rome! We loved how the book was written in terms of description and character development. It was a lighter, summer read. We felt l the character had a lot to work out but she never quite figured out what it was so there were a lot of questions left up for interpretation."

Menu: Italian rosé, homemade flatbreads with Italian pesto, mozzarella, fresh basil, aged balsamic, and roasted tomatoes.

Next Chapter: “Everyone agreed that Francesca Giacco's writing was beautiful,—and it was fun to read her book looking for food and drink that members can make and enjoy at book club! Emilia heads off on a six-day trip to Rome—it was supposed to be a romantic trip with her then-boyfriend Michael. but that’s not possible as he is married! With six days in Rome, Emilia will have time to reflect on why it wouldn’t work, why she deserves better, and time to enjoy the food and wine on her trip. We discussed what we thought happened to Michael: we had differing opinions to whether he had died or was with someone else or married. During her trip, she reflects on her relationship with her father and brother, and has lots of yummy food and drink throughout. We were happy that she met someone new and Emilia Is able to focus on herself and her art. Her six days in Rome weren’t what she had planned when she booked the trip, but sometimes better things come out of bad situations. Ah, the magic of Italy! One of our members took her book to Rome and shared photos."

Menu: “We enjoyed Aperol Spritz cocktails, a charcuterie board, tiramisu, and wine-soaked grapes”.

Peoria Book Rack, Illinois, Thrillers by the Book Orange County, California, Novels N Latte, Hudson Valley, New York
THE GOOD SISTER by Sally Hepworth (St. Martins Press, 2021)
A psychological thriller about the lies that bind two sisters.

Peoria Book Rack: “We agreed it was fast-paced and a quick read. The story keeps you guessing as you try to figure out the family dynamic between sisters Rose and Fern. the journals, their relationship with the mom, the twists! We also discussed Hepworth's versatility as an author. She has a solid list of backlist books that many of us are excited to check out! We recommend for book clubs that enjoy family thrillers.”

Thrillers by the Book: “Everyone loves Sally Hepworth, and this was a favorite! A likable main character and a fun story. We talked about representation in books, and the importance of character-driven books, and how her writing style is relatable and easy to read."

Novels N Latte: “Perfect for our club. We love good twisted family dynamics, and this sister story gave us a lot to discuss, including Fern's autism spectrum and which was actually the good sister.”

Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey, East Lawrence High School Book Club of Trinity, Alabama, Reckless Readers of  Eastford, Connecticut, and North Wales Area Library Book Club, Pennsylvania
DARK AND SHALLOW LIES by Ginny Myers Sain (Penguin Teen, 2021)

A supernatural thriller about a teen girl who disappears from her small town deep in the bayou, where magic festers beneath the surface of the swamp.

Reckless Readers: The story hooked the teens— they enjoyed the love story and the witchy aspect, and our adult readers also loved the book. We included teen daughters who wanted to join, and teachers and librarians in the group who wanted to preview it before ordering for their locations. A few of them have not read YA books, so it was a nice and unexpected change for them. We liked the Southern setting, and how the author submerged us in Bayou. From gigantic gators ( Willie Nelson) to psychic abilities, shapeshifter, and Aurora readers, this book is a full experience. The end was shocking and fit the story. We recommend this book for those that enjoy a hint of magic within a southern setting.

Menu: "Southern delights mentioned in the book: Honey’s Pralines, Willie Nelson’s Gator Piss cocktail—with Midori, lime juice, rum, sweet & sour mix, and seltzer—Cajun wings and shrimp dip."

North Wales Area Library: “Our group had one of the best discussions we can remember!”This was an excellent selection and discussion. The book brought the Louisiana bayou setting to life. One member was raised in the area and she especially thought the setting description was spot on. The group wondered why the word ‘shallow’ was included in the title: The lies did not seem shallow. We debated the killer, books were pulled out and theories shared. The hurricane preparation made for interesting reading. We discussed why an outside investigation might not have happened. All said they would read another Sain book and looked forward to the next book in the series. We hope to have our adult group discuss DARK AND SHALLOW LIES with our teen book club! Our group rates books with 1-5 stars. The lowest rating in the group was 4.5! We recommend this book to clubs who enjoy reading outside of the box.”

ELHS Book Club: “Thank you for providing yet another wonderful book for our students! We discussed the setting bayous, swamps, cypress trees, alligators, shrimp boats and houses on stilts. The author did an excellent job painting a picture for the reader. We also discussed mental illness which is woven into the plot through a couple of characters via subtle behaviors and downright craziness.

Menu: jambalaya, gumbo, and pistolette rolls.

Book Club Girls: “Don't be turned away by the YA label, this book is for all ages. It was completely off our radar as far as genre, and many readers gave it five stars, and couldn't believe it was a debut novel. One member stayed up until 5 am to finish— she just had to know the end! The writing was fantastic. We discussed the book is marketed as a YA title, however, NONE of us are near that demographic We felt the characters could be aged up to the 30s and 40' and still make sense—they were just as vital to the storyline as the plot. We felt the novel touched on mystery and supernatural themes but also the deep-rooted impact of emotional trauma that shapes us. We discussed how keeping secrets buried for so many years by everyone caused so much heartache and pain. If truths were told from the start, what would the lives of the children have been like?? A great evening with lots of thoughtful discussions and fun had by all."

Menu: Hurricane Punch, crawfish, gator bites, cajun fried catfish, and cornbread.

Lit Ladies Read Book Club of Melbourne, Florida and Thrillers by the Book of Costa Mesa, California
THE YOUNGER WIFE by Sally Hepworth, (St. Martins Press, 4/22)
A new novel of domestic suspense that delves into a tangled web of family secrets, and lies.

Lit Ladies Read: "We loved this book and had a great discussion, which centered on the theme of perceived reality. We had a great debate about whether Stephen was actually an abuser or just misunderstood. The epilogue raised more questions than provided answers. Our group had varying opinions depending on which character’s perspective we were discussing. We all enjoyed the ambiguous nature of the ending and agreed it was very clever. It was a lot of fun to discuss our own opinions and debate what we believed to be the truth. Some of our members took the book at face value, while others questioned what we had read and what we believed to be the truth.

"We liked how the story was told with alternating points of view and followed along easily when the perspective changed. The book dealt with some serious topics but was written in a very light-hearted way that made it a quick enjoyable read."

Menu: “Heather would have been proud! We met at a country club,  in true Aston fashion. We had Mahi tacos and quesadillas in honor of Rachel and Darcy’s first date.”

Thrillers by the Book: "A perfect match! We’re big fans of Sally Hepworth! We loved the intriguing vibe the author created by not revealing right away who was involved in the accident from the opening scene. The story is based on many factors, dysfunctional family dynamics, abusive relationships, addiction, mental issues, and so many juicy secrets. We enjoyed Sally’s writing style and the characters she created. Sally has a way of making her characters very relatable and down to earth. We also enjoyed how she connected a piece of her real-life to one of the scenes in this book. Some of the secondary characters seemed to love Stephen but Heather and his kids suspect him of being abusive. The ending left us wondering if Stephen was in actual fact abusive. The women around him suffered a lot of 'accidents' but it’s never clear if they were really accidents or intentional. We recommend this title for book clubs that enjoy a family drama with a hint of suspense. Thank you for spoiling our book club!"

Page Ladies of Cleveland, Ohio, Bibliobibuli of San Diego, California, and HAH Reading Club of Kaukama, Wisconsin
THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY by Sherri L. Smith ((Penguin Young Readers, 2//20)
From the award-winning author of Flygirl comes this powerful WWII romance between two Japanese teens caught in the cogs of an unwinnable war.

Page Ladies: “Thank you for sharing this amazing, compelling, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking story about life in Japan during World War II. We were surprised by how much research went into it, and we are always interested in books that can teach us something. The story switches between Taro and Hana's perspectives so we see two sides of the story and what each experienced. Could we imagine being Hana, having to take care of the kamikaze pilots and then say goodbye to them, knowing that they will more than likely die? We talked about Hana and the pilot—how they felt at the beginning of the book versus the end— as well as the choices that surprised us and whether we would do the same. This was an emotional read and the pace moves well with the story."

Bibliobibuli: “Our members enjoyed THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY, and our chat with author Sherri Smith was especially enjoyable. The novel is a fictionalized account of young kamikaze pilots and the teen-aged girls who provided platonic camaraderie and emotional support to them during World War II. Smith employs lyrical prose to introduce the reader to war-torn Japan and the youth culture that rallied around Emperor Hirohito. We appreciated learning more about the Japanese perspective on World War II. Hana’s disparaging remarks about Americans made us realize that we had never heard from the youth of Japan about the events of the war."

HAH Reading Club: We really enjoyed THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY and its different perspectives on World War II We discussed how the novel reminded us of the current situation with the Ukrainian and Russian war. The author talked about remembering so it doesn’t happen again, and we discussed how emotional we felt about the abuse, propaganda, and conditioning that happened to prepare the civilians and boys for the war.
We compared how the reading of trauma and the emotional impact, ranges based on the age of the reader. We discussed the comparison of how being ready for death in a moment you can’t control, such as a reaction to an air raid, and the premeditated preparation of the pilots to body-crash was handled and how the author gave us both views. We also found how the invasion was perceived after all the preparations made to fight to the death as the expectation from the government. We recommend this novel to clubs looking for an emotional experience with a dive into other cultures."

 

Lit Ladies, Melbourne, Florida; Tequila Mockingbird, Massapequa Park, New York; Literary Lounge, Clovis, California; Spines & Wines, Franklin Lakes, New Jersey

BYE, BABY by Carola T. Lovering  (St. Martins Press, 3/24)
A novel about female friendship, a missing baby, and the toxic, secret history between two women.

Thrillers by the Book Club:  “Our book club reads thrillers, and, recently delved into BYE, BABY, an engaging read, perfect for our interests. We were hooked by the first chapter involving the main character and a baby. the discussions within our group were rich and varied. Part of our conversation centered on friendship, particularly the complexities of long-standing relationships from childhood. We explored how friendships evolve, sometimes leading to a natural drift apart, yet a lingering sense of care remains. The book led us to reflect on our experiences with seemingly one-sided friendships and how we've navigated them. Billie's intense fixation on Cassie initially struck us as excessive, but as the story unfolded and revealed her past traumas, we understood her motivations better. Our discussions also touched on how these traumas influenced Billie's determination to sustain her friendship with Cassie, despite the latter's manipulative and self-centered nature.  Members were eager to recommend the book to others, especially those who enjoy themes including complicated friendships, the use of dual perspectives, and timelines."

Literary Lounge: “So thankful for the opportunity to read BYE, BABY We really enjoyed it,  and couldn’t put it down! A perfect match for our book club! We all enjoyed this story of a toxic friendship, the influencer culture, and how it can change people. We appreciated the story's timeline and how it went back and forth between the origin of Cassie and Billie’s friendship to their current status as friends  We discussed how ridiculous people can get with influencers and that whole culture. We recommend to those who enjoy books about toxic friendships.”

Spines & Wines: “The short chapters including the dual points of view and timelines, kept us intrigued as the story unravels their friendship throughout the years. The author perfectly depicts events that pulled their friendship apart and revealed the deepest secrets that bonded Cassie and Billie together. We all liked and hated Billie and Cassie at different points throughout the novel.  The most interesting topics were the scenario questions that the book prompted. For example, the role of social media, materialism, Grant’s view of his wife’s business, and defining a healthy friendship! We wanted more details to unravel juicier minor storylines. Recommended for those who enjoy stories about toxic friendships, alternating timelines, and suspense novels!"

Lit Ladies Read:  "Alternating points of view made this a page-turner. We also loved that social media is a huge part of the story We all enjoyed this easy read that was a thought-provoking look at friendship and motherhood. This book was character-driven, and we had a lengthy discussion about Billie and Cassie. We discussed our initial thoughts of each character and how these thoughts changed as we learned their stories. We agreed that we didn’t like Cassie in the beginning and our dislike of Cassie only grew over time. While with Billie, we grew to like her more as the story progressed. Even though Billie did something terrible, we felt for her and did not want to see her get caught or get in trouble. We appreciated how the ending wrapped up the story   We recommend to those who enjoy dramas about friendship."                                                                                            


Sisterhood Book Club, Macon, Georgia; Beth El Synagogue Book Club, Omaha Nebraska; Newly Revisioned Bookclub, St. Albans, Vermont;
Key Women Educators, Villages, Florida; Teachers Who Read, Columbus, Ohio

ADAM UNREHEARSED by Don Futterman (Post Hill Press, 11/23)
A coming-of-age comedy set in New York in 1970— a story of friendship, betrayal, life, death, and acting,

Beth El Synagogue: “A Perfect match! We were all impressed by the writing style and content, especially for a debut novel Truly a 5Many of our members grew up in the NYC area and were very family with locations, schools mentioned, and curriculum! We could all relate to the 1970 time frame and recall the events highlighted in the narrative. 

The highlight of our discussion was connecting with the author, Don Futterman, by Zoom. He graciously spoke for a long time about the background and content of the book and answered our questions, reminisced about growing up in 1970's NYC and the freedom children experienced then. We discussed his friends, family, synagogue how he decided to move to Israel, and his thoughts on the current situation. It was a fantastic opportunity to read and meet the author.  Recommended for those who enjoy a coming of age story and learning about Jewish life in NYC 1970s”

Menu: In honor of Adam's Bar Mitzvah, we served a dessert buffet.

Newly Revisioned: “ADAM UNREHEARSED was a great match for our book club, and provided fodder for great discussion. Members felt the issues rang true for the community and enjoyed exploring them alongside the main character. We all loved that Adam became so immersed in the theater, and appreciated the power it had to help him find his own way, make new friends, and explore his confusing world through a piece of literature. The scenes from DAWN were so vividly described that we could feel the scene unfolding before our very eyes. We also agreed that the development of Adam's character was spot-on. We REALLY liked him— such a big heart!" Recommended for those who enjoy books about young adults with a social message.”

Sisterhood: “We delved into Adam's emotional journey, particularly focusing on his feelings of betrayal when his friends ostracized and bullied him, especially after his attempt to steal comic books resulted in getting caught on his first foray into wrongdoing. We also explored social shifts, such as the changing seating plans for his bar mitzvah, and the ebb and flow of friendships, with old ones dissolving and new ones forming. Through trials, Adam emerged with increased self-esteem and eventually reconciled with his friends, despite the initial confusion and hurt caused by their unexpected hostility.”

Teachers Who Read:  “We liked Adam and the 1970s time period. Education was very different at that time and as teachers, we like to compare and contrast!   None of us participated in theater growing up so that was fun to read about, along with the educational aspect. We discussed What schools looked like in the '70s and how different it is from the world without cell phones and technology. We all liked it and had many scenes stayed with us. This book has many discussion points as Adam matures in the coming-of-age story so it's perfect for book club! Recommended for those who enjoy books that lead to much discussion and have a main character you are rooting for!”            

Book Buddies, Carrollton, Texas, and Circle of Readers Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
HENDERSON HOUSE by Caren Simpson McVicker

A boardinghouse tale of sisters, secrets, and later-in-life romance (8/1/23, Inkshares)

Carrollton Book Buddies: "We unanimously loved  HENDERSON HOUSE and are anxiously awaiting the sequel!" Our club especially enjoyed the storytelling Caren weaves into the plot and the suspense of family secrets and sister loyalty. One of the threads in the novel is women in the workplace in the early 1940s. We discussed jobs women from past generations have held, from millinery shops in south Texas to restaurants in Germany! We shared our versions of ‘self-talk,’ kitchen ladies from church, the supporting roles of the ‘menfolk’ and their impact on the story, and sister relationships.

Henderson House is a relaxing respite from the busy world we live in. The novel is a flashback to 1940s Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and the simpler life of Wednesday night church suppers, Saturdays at the local cinema, and Sunday walks in the park after church. Based on family history and stories, Caren’s main character, Mildred Henderson, turns her grand home into a boarding house after the unexpected death of her husband. Mrs. H. and her beagle, Louie, captivate readers as she uses her special gifts— sensing houses and seeing a person’s color and an interview checklist to choose her tenants. Frank Davis, a newly hired petroleum engineer at Philips Petroleum, checks all the boxes, changing the lives of the other boarders, the Blackwell family. In a few weeks, readers fall in love with Mrs. H.’s wisdom and Frank’s mild-mannered, genuine interest in the family, but most importantly his attraction to spinster Bessie, and where their friendship might lead. Dinners around the table with boarders recounting the day’s activities, unique recipes shared, and even cooking lessons make food and conversation tantalizing.

We recommend for those who enjoy historical fiction set in mid-20th century America."

Menu: "From the author’s HENDERSON HOUSE Recipe Collection: Appetizers—The Oklahoma Club Special, Edna’s Award-Winning Deviled Eggs, and Corn & Bean Salad with lime dressing."

Main course salads—Waldorf, Cucumber & Tomato, and Chicken

Dessert— Mrs. H’s White Cake Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting. The ‘take-away’ gift—a Boarder Interview Kit: a teapot filled with a stack of homemade almond shortbread cookies and lemon tea."

Circle of Readers: “While we rarely agree on the merits of a book, everyone in the group enjoyed the novel—its characters, family stories, and the Oklahoma setting of HENDERSON HOUSE! We found the family stories engaging, but HENDERSON HOUSE also addresses some tough topics: sexual harassment, women in the workplace, unwed pregnancy, family dynamics, and prejudice against the Cherokees.  We also enjoyed discussing the characters themselves and what motivates them., and the opportunity to meet with the author on Zoom, Recommended for those who enjoy family stories, a bit of magic, and charming characters. Thank you for such great opportunities to meet authors and read good books."

Menu:  "Everyone enjoyed the tasty Knobby Apple Cake from the author’s website."

Book Club Girls, Sparta, New Jersey; Literary Lovelies, Yonkers, New York; Blu Stocking Lit Society, West Allis Wisconsin
ONLY THE BEAUTIFUL by Susan Meissner (Berkley Pub, 2023)

A novel about a young mother’s fight to keep her daughter and the terrible injustice that tears them apart.

Blu Stockings Lit Society: “ONLY THE BEAUTIFUL had difficult topics to read about, but the novel provided a deep foundation for discussion.”We were not aware of eugenics in this country continuing into the 1970s. This book was well-researched and provided enough information that you could look further into our country’s history in pursuing and maintaining policies on forced sterilization. The themes of power/weakness, strength, and compliance versus complacency were a focus for our group. We discussed complacency as a weakness of character resulting in compliant behavior—if you don’t speak or act out you could be considered in support. Drawing from a historical perspective at this time in history we are all very complacent and history could easily be repeated. Additional topics of discussion included eugenics today and how decisions are being made regarding genetic technology, gene editing and embryo engineering. Several members in work in health care which also led to talk about inequality in access and information and how that impacts the choices available to individuals. We discussed how many events have occurred over time that one may not be aware of. One of the great benefits of reading is continuing learning for life. We recommend to those who enjoy historical fiction with strong historical components that lead to a robust discussion.”

Book Club Girls of Sparta: “We enjoyed our discussion about this thought-provoking and emotional book.” - We are taken on a journey of family, motherhood, and a fight to keep a child that faces unbearable challenges during this time in history, shifting between California in 1938 at a family-owned vineyard and Europe in 1947.

We enjoy historical fiction when we learn history that none of us were aware of. None of us knew what synesthesia was, and we had heard of eugenics because we read other books that explored this subject.  For many, it was difficult to read because of the portrayal of suffering during the war and when people just didn't accept others who were different.   

We discussed the options for at women and young girls at this time in history and the ability to make their own choices. That there was so much evil and so few tried to help and do what was right impacted us. We felt the main thread of the book was about family and how the deep desire to find a feeling of home, love, and safety is universal.   Everyone felt they learned a lot and was interested in other titles by Susan Meissner."

Menu: "California wine and rich desserts you would find in Vienna.  We met at Sparta Classic Diner for dinner and decadent desserts."

Literary Lovelies: ”We all loved ONLY THE BEAUTIFUL.  Our book club loves historical fiction and we all enjoyed the multiple storylines."-  This story was particularly heartbreaking, especially for the mothers in our group. We have met monthly for over 3 years and this was our first repeat author! We love Susan Meissner and this was our favorite GalleyMatch yet.

We had a good discussion regarding the period, if people would want another mouth to feed coming out of the Great Depression. We also discussed the family dynamics. It was eye-opening that this happened. In our day of a woman’s right to choose, it was devastating to see that these women were sterilized without any say at all or even knowledge of what was happening.  Although this was set against the backdrop of World War II it was a very different tale about this period. Meissner has a way of pulling the reader into the characters’ lives, leaving you thinking about them long after the book has been read. Recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction, heavy subjects, and books that take you out of your comfort zone."

Boys Book Club, San Jose California; Between the Lines, Woolwich, New Jersey Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York
GENEVA by Richard C. Armitage (Pegasus 10/23)
A bold and unpredictable debut thriller set in Switzerland's biotech world (and deceptive beauty), by acclaimed actor Richard Armitage.  

 Boys Book Club:“ We enjoyed GENEVA, a page-turner! We found ourselves engrossed in a discussion about the complex themes in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss, global intrigue, and the chilling notion of brain implants that seem all too real. These topics and the ethical dilemmas presented in the book sparked an interesting conversation. We enjoyed the characters and the author’s vivid descriptions. Those who listened to the audio version narrated by Richard Armitage, Nicola Walker, and Jane Perry highly recommended it.

Menu: “Cheese fondue, Toblerone chocolate. Two beers: Forgotten Thoughts and Stranger than Fiction"

Reading Between the Wines: “GENEVA was a great match for our book club. We love reading mysteries and thrillers and this fast-paced thriller set in Geneva, Switzerland in the world of biotech research, had some great red herrings to keep us interested and intrigued. We discussed the biotech world and the ethics surrounding new discoveries. We also discussed the dynamics between Sarah and her husband Daniel, and how her career as a  Nobel prize-winning scientist affected their relationship We enjoyed discussing GENEVA!. Lots of red herrings and a great twist kept the conversation going!"

Menu: "Chocolate fondue with fruit and cookies, cheese fondue and bread, mulled wine, and Toblerone!"

Between the Lines: "We were wowed that GENEVA is Richard’s debut novel—the last 20 minutes of the book had us on the edge of our seats!”-“We all enjoyed, this fast-paced thriller read. GENEVA dives into Alzheimer’s, family dynamics, and the biotech industry. It was a roller coaster ride. We have family members with medical illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and we’re interested in the biotech part of the story. We loved the ending and couldn’t get over how it unfolded—it was our favorite part. We recommend GENEVA to book clubs that enjoy a heart-pumping, edge-of-your-seat ending.  Richard Armitage narrates the male POV, so get the audio and give your ears a true treat."

Menu: "Fondue with Swiss cheese, as book is set in Switzerland"

Romancing the Hearthstone, Rogers Arkansas; Happy Bookers, Linn, Missouri; Legacy Literary Ladies, The Villages, Florida   
STREET CORNER DREAMS by Florence Reiss Kraut (SheWrites, 11/23)
A  novel about  Golda, who comes to America yearning for independence before World War I, but tosses aside her dreams of freedom and marries her widowed brother-in-law after her sister dies giving birth to their son.

Romancing the Hearthstone: “We all gave STREET CORNER DREAMS five stars!. We adored it. Most members couldn’t put it down and read it in two days. They loved the writing style and commented that the pacing was great for historical fiction— a page-turner.  This was a wonderful story told from the perspective of an immigrant. The novel made us feel so grateful for what we have. The discussion centered on how weak Ben was and how strong Goulda and Sarah were.  Members were invested in this story and wanted a sequel to know what happens to Morty.”

Legacy Literary Ladies: “Most members enjoyed STREET CORNER DREAMS from the onset, but ended up loving the novel. As the characters developed, the story was very believable, andhated to see it end, with engaging twists and turns. It is an emotionally charged story that reads easily and is well crafted.  A vivid portrayal of the immigrant experience with believable, vivid.  characters and an engaging story that we all felt a connection to.
Menu: Potato latkes

Happy Bookers: "STREET CORNER DREAMS was full of historical events, family drama with struggles, perseverance, and romance. The surprises and twists in various storylines kept our discussion going!"-The characters will long live in our reading memories: Golda, Ben, Morty, Anna, Sylvia, Surah, and Esther. The difficulties and struggles of these immigrants as they faced the events of the Great Depression, the Spanish Flu, and World War 1 provide an influx of social history surrounding their lives. It was intriguing to read the family mysteries surrounding those characters, who are working toward their dreams, as they work through their difficulties and challenges. Which loves will prevail amidst the pressures of war, the gangs, and economic factors of the day as they work to make their way in their new land?

We didn’t know much about the gangs of New York. Families and businesses faced many obstacles and were targeted by gang threats of paying protection fees to survive. A main discussion topic was comparing our lives and advantages to the hardships of our nation's newcomers. We wondered if we could withstand the modes of travel, lack of communication and job opportunities, and health crises with limited care with the same fortitude." 

Menu: "Anna’s uncle Tony’s deli-inspired bread, salami, and Swiss cheese. We meet on the opening night of the Osage View restaurant overlooking beautiful rolling hills that many immigrants years ago came upon in settling in our county.


Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado; Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; Revivals, Germantown, Wisconsin; Lit Happens, California, Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Missouri

THE FARMER'S WIFE by Helen Rebanks (Harper Horizon,  9/23)
An honest portrait of rural life and an authentic exploration of both the hard work and reward of keeping a home and raising a family.

Ranch Readers: We loved this memoir and felt it was rare in that it was raw and practical. It made us remember our own trials and tribulations of courtship, career choice, having babies, and the hard work of being a mother and supportive wife. Although Helen experienced many changes in lifestyle she ultimately realized being a wife and mother were the most important aspects of her life and those choices made her the happiest. We enjoyed the recipes she so effortlessly executed, and we felt almost like a family member, getting to know the various individuals she wrote about so intimately and from her heart. A few members spoke about the long hours of work and almost constant attention needed to maintain farm animals that farming involves, and how every member of the family has to contribute to maintaining a farm, the loneliness they often experienced by living isolated on a large farm as children, but also the joys of sharing the rebirth every spring of the farm animals' young and planting season being completed. They also remembered the joys of harvest season when other farmers would gather to help each other and then celebrate by sharing a large meal together. We all enjoyed reading about how food and cooking were important to the author and spoke about the recipes we wanted to try as we discussed the book. We also discussed how family farms contribute the most to preserving sustainable practices and how important it is to support farmers, shepherds, and ranchers. The memoir encouraged us to think about writing our own life stories and including favorite family recipes. Recommended for those who enjoy reading honest memoirs, and being a wife and mother.” 

Menu: “Helen's Lentil and Tomato Soup before our discussion--it was so delicious!—and her Lemon Drizzle Cake for dessert”

The Revivals: "We enjoy cooking and this book presented a wonderful opportunity for us to share our kitchen prowess by each of us preparing one or two dishes that came together as a shared dinner; family dinners being a priority for Helen. We discussed Helen's unique art and her enjoyment of creating a comfortable family home. We agree with Helen and share her enjoyment of home-cooked meals and family mealtimes. We discussed our own comfort levels with home births and marveled at Helen's thoughtfully made choices with her second child. We cheered for Helen when she perfectly described the many hats a stay-at-home mom wears and the feelings accompanying that life path. While possibly not given enough attention in the book, Helen writes with personal insight on the food choices we all should be paying more attention to and the farmers who provide our life-sustaining food. In clear and concise few short paragraphs, Helen has enlightened us on the importance of sustainable farming systems that encourage ‘good food from good farming.’. We recommend this book to those who enjoy coming of age, home cooking, memoirs, and women's studies. "

Menu: “Members chose and recreated recipes from the book: Smoked salmon rectangles, hummus and pita chips, frittata, field mushroom soup and croutons, easy chocolate cake, and panettone(bread and butter) pudding.”

Get Woke: "A magical evening! In honor of THE FARMER’S WIFE, and farm-to-table eating, we partnered with the Pleasant Grove Pizza- where host Emily creates unique pizzas with local and seasonal food, which enriched our discussion and palate. Rebanks reflects on her life revealing family struggles and relationships, the challenges of motherhood, and the stigma of honoring ‘small domestic things’ She champions the importance of the daily grind of domesticity. Her thoughts are enhanced by sketches, and family recipes are sprinkled throughout the book.

"Her ideas about the benefits of a simple life, and enthusiasm for farm life, and the prevailing attitudes regarding women’s roles struck a chord with our group. Several members grew up in farming families, and they recalled the wives’ drudgery, cooking, and cleaning as never-ending activities, feeling trapped in the house, constantly preparing field lunch boxes.
Rebanks feels the false perceptions and frustrations that can stereotype ‘life within the home”. The importance of mundane, day-to-day events is often overlooked. The prevalent, cultural dogma strongly suggests that 'life outside the home is more important than the one inside the home.' She realizes that there are all kinds of 'mums' that 'carry our own stuff on our shoulders,' and unless we have walked in each other’s shoes, we should not judge.
Rebanks focuses on food, including her journey as a cook and inherited family recipes. She encourages readers to shop locally and seasonally. In southern Minnesota, we enjoy local meat and produce, and this theme resonated. We designed our meeting to honor the local food movement. Our hosts Emily and Bill partner with local farmers, winemakers, and brewers. Their farm consists of 55 acres of prairie grassland and oak trees, home to animals, a wood-fired pizza oven, a barn, and a large garden. We celebrated THE FARMER’S WIFE with Emily’s unique food creations— and she joined our discussion."
Menu: "Smoked Salmon Crostini (inspired by Rebanks’ recipe) Piggy in the Orchard Pizza, Apple Pie Pizza, local wine."
Lit Happens:
Menu: Spaghetti Carbonara with Mushrooms, and Dauphinoise Potatoes. Scrambled Eggs and Homemade Fries, Maple-Sweetened Overnight Oat, Hot Chocolate Flight. Lemon Meringue Pie.

Chapter by Chapter Book Club of Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Happy Bookers of Linn, Missouri; Words!Women!Wine! of Brookfield, Wisconsin

THE HIDDEN LIFE OF ASTER KELLY by Katherine A. Sherbrooke  (Pegasus Books, 4/23)
The story of a runway model in 1940s Hollywood who makes a split-second decision intended to protect those she loves but triggers a cascade of secrets that threatens to upend her daughter’s life decades later.

Chapter by Chapter: "THE HIDDEN LIFE OF ASTER KELLY was a great match. We really enjoy historical fiction and several members commented that they enjoyed the glimpse behind the scenes of the fashion industry in Hollywood. We were interested in how their lifestyle judged those involved in fashion and industry. Several members had read THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO and talked about the similarities between the two books. Told from the perspective of mother/daughter protagonists in dual time periods on opposite coasts, this one kept me turning the page late into the night. I didn’t expect to be so absorbed, but I highly recommend this read!"

Menu: "As a nod to Benny’s meatballs, our potluck included meatball pizza. Our drink was Caramel Apple Cider—a nod to the Berkshires, which was referenced in the novel."

Happy Bookers:  “From the fabulous cover to the title to the main character’s name, we were intrigued! When we learned that the book was inspired by the author‘s mother, it added even more interest. THE HIDDEN LIFE OF ASTER KELLY is a story of secrets, of decisions, and the consequences of those decisions, with surprising twists and entanglements that kept us reading to learn how the mother’s choices impact her daughter’s life. Learning about Hollywood particularly the fashion, and glamour of 1940s Hollywood to 1970s Broadway was fascinating. Our conversation focused on the difficulty of life-altering decisions and their outcomes. We discussed the bonds of the chosen family and the strength of love and loyalty. An interesting point was how the story involved a coming of age for both Aster and her daughter Lissy. Choices involving Lissy’s Broadway and Noah’s music careers gave us much to talk about. And no one saw a big twist coming! I have since listened to several of the author's interviews and love her background story for this book. We look forward to reading more of her books. We recommend this novel to those who enjoy historical fiction about Hollywood, Broadway, and family drama."

Menu: “Our versions of Benny’s homemade meatballs and soup. When served, we commented on how this was the ultimate comfort food for this story.”

Words!Women!Wine!: "We all enjoyed this book and the strong female protagonists and both timeline plots. We had a great discussion with many viewpoints. We discussed  Sam and Aster's relationship. Both characters seemed to have conflicting feelings, although the relationship had some redeeming qualities One member noted that Aster had made so many fabrications about her life, it was hard to keep her secrets straight. It was as if the fabrications were woven into her background, much like her early desire to be a fashion designer. Many of us liked that Aster moved from clothing to sculpture and felt that was a well-developed plot line.

We all agreed that the love story of Fernando and Benedict/Christopher was the best in the book. We discussed it must have been for gay celebrities in the 40s & 50s and even still today. We had not heard of the term ' avender scare’ which led us into a discussion of discrimination and profits and politics. It was interesting to us that both females fixated on their one true love - even though initially they both let them go. Many of us thought it was predictable that Christopher/Benny would die after the lead-up to that scene, but we were all shocked in the end that the death had been fake. We had a lot of discussions around the death, funeral, and new stories. Suggested for clubs that enjoy a female-centered novel with a lot of relationships and secrets.

Menu: "Prosecco and shrimp cocktail (very Hollywood) and followed that with a "Tivoli dinner of caesar salad, penne & meatballs. We had an Italian Love cake for dessert! "                                                                                           

 

St. Louis Lit Book Club, Missouri; Melanie's Book Club, Sioux Falls, South Dakota  Angry Book Club, Norwich, Connecticut
THE INTERN by Michele Campbell, (St. Martin’s Press, 10/23)
A young Harvard law student falls under the spell of a charismatic judge in this timely and thrilling novel about class, ambition, family, and murder.

St. Louis Lit Book Club: “As fall nears the perfect book to pick up is a thriller like THE INTERN, which was interesting from the beginning. and the action was not far-fetched, which was nice for a thriller. Having two points of view allowed our book club to choose which characters we liked most and why. There were many characters to keep track of, which added layers to the discussion. Legal thrillers were new to some, and the reaction was positive to receiving a new type of book we may not have otherwise picked. Recommended for those who enjoy legal thrillers, and multi-character stories. and fast-paced mysteries."

Menu: "We drank wine to match the cover at Winnie's Wine Bar in St. Louis."

Angry Book Club: We enjoyed THE INTERN! We are known for being pretty critical (hence the anger) but this book got thumbs up, and we especially enjoyed the end! This book had me turning pages, especially with the switched perspectives! There was much conversation about Madison’s indecisiveness, which annoyed some members, while others thought it made her more relatable. We also discussed whether Katherine was smart enough to escape her situation without taking the steps she did. Several of us live near, or have spent time in Boston, and really enjoyed the Boston descriptions and mentions of real restaurants and places —the characters actually drink Dunkin, take the T (and get off at real stops), and live in areas of the city that make sense. This led to a great discussion about books that successfully create a sense of place and the joy of reading books about places we have lived. Recommended for those who enjoy legal thrillers.

Melanie's Book Club: "We all loved THE INTERN. It was a great match for our book club because it's rare for us to find a book that we all enjoy and this was that book! We had an excellent discussion about the book, specifically talking about the relationships among the characters in the book- and how they affected their decision-making. Being from the Midwest, we couldn't really relate to the mob connections, but we could relate to family difficulties and making difficult decisions regarding family members  We had many discussions about our families and the different relationships, troubles, and decisions. We know each other well, but it was interesting to learn more and refreshing to hear that all families have issues and work through them in different ways. Recommended for those who enjoy conflict, suspense, and deciding how far you'll go to protect your family."     

The Famished for Fiction Book Club of Frisco, Texas, Flagstaff Ladies Book Club, Arizona, Boozy Books Book Club and Kaukauna Wisconsin

YOUR PLANTATION PROM IS NOT OKAY by Kelly McWilliams (Little Brown, 5/23)
A YA novel about Harriet Douglass, a teenager living with her historian father on a plantation turned enslaved people's museum, who must handle her feelings of anger when an actress who purchased the plantation next door, plans to turn it into an event venue.

Famished for Fiction: “We loved this multilayered story. The magnitude of all the things affecting Harriet led to a lot of thoughtful discussion. We gave it 5/5 stars!"

The setting of the book reminded us of Whitney Plantation in South Louisiana. We discussed the struggle that exists between the beauty of the plantation homes and grounds the acknowledgment of the horrors of slavery and the pain and suffering of the enslaved people that were forced against their will to build those homes and maintain those grounds. Is it possible to be in awe of those beautiful places and yet heartbroken by the pain that surrounds them?

The importance of seeing both sides of a story and acknowledging them is what leads to improvement in our relationships with people who are different from ourselves. Harriett spent much time caring for herself as her father was unable to do more than the bare minimum after the death of her mother. Harriett's anger with outsiders' inability to see, acknowledge, and respect the purpose of a landmark such as their plantation. We recommend this book to those who enjoy thought-provoking reads that have a different perspective from the 'norm. We are a diverse group of women who enjoy thought-provoking books that enhance our discussion and this was a great fit."

Menu:  Down South Kitchen and Bakery for Southern food

Boozy Books: "Thank you for the match! We might not have read YOUR PLANTATION PROM IS NOT OKAY otherwise. When a book makes you cry it’s automatically a great book .We liked the mix of the main character's naïveté and cynicism as the book progresses. We discussed toxic parenting and our perceptions of the adults, the character’s adjustments as they navigate issues, our appreciation of having a flawed main character, and the grace given to Layla but not the white friends she grew up with. We were interested in the 17-year-old perspective—and all the current social issues and cultural references, such as TikTok. 'What’s up with teen/middle school boys and frogs' stood out as an amusement.

We recommend this novel to clubs who enjoy contemporary social issue books, or DEAR MARTIN or THE HATE YOU GIVE.”

Flagstaff Ladies: “We all enjoyed this novel, which spurred much discussion about the South (none of us grew up there), plantations, tourist rentals, grief, and growing up a person of color in today's America. We also liked the main character because Harriet is such a teenager —more than half of us are moms of girls).

We live in a tourist town, so though the housing isn't all historic, there are wealthy outsiders who have second homes here, so the way Harriet bristles at the new neighbors resonated. The way she also kind of liked the new girl and determined she was human was also something a few of us could identify with. And her anger issues...not unfamiliar! It was a great trait to give Harriet, and we talked a bit about our own struggles with rage, as well as dealing with others who have trouble controlling theirs.

We have a significant Native-American presence in our city, so that is where we see discrimination, disrespect, and racism crop up, and we had a great discussion about how as women, we also see (and experience) these micro- or upfront- aggressions more readily than our male partners. We also discussed being in a bit of a bubble because it is a small city, and there are no obvious monuments to discrimination that we would drive by all the time (on the nearby reservation, yes). The discussion about grief was also interesting -- how do you remember your loved ones? Do you remember their last days or the rest of their lives? We had a debate about Dawn and what we would have thought about our daughters dating him, or a friend dating their childhood buddy. We liked him but realized we would have been protective of Harriet because she was not very savvy about relationships. We thought the story was well-written and it was nice that it didn't end with everything neatly resolved -- that was realistic. Recommended for those who enjoy novels about young adults, the South, and that discuss racism."                                        

Menu: "One of our group stopped at fast food on the way to book club. Shout out to Harriet's dad!"        

 The Revivals, Germantown, Wisconsin; Woodlands Lunch and Books, Woodlands, Texas Get Woke, New Prague, Minnesota; Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado "

CHASING THE PANTHER: Adventures and Misadventures of a Cinematic Life Carolyn Pfeiffer with Gregory Collins (Harper Horizon, 6/23)
Film producer and early Hollywood female coming-of-age memoir, set against the backdrop of Fellini's Rome, French New Wave Paris, and Swinging London.

Get Woke: "CHASING THE PANTHER reads like a novel: encounters with the rich and famous; travels to exotic cities and countries, experiences, and success as a pioneering film producer and PR representative. We called Pfeiffer the ‘female Forrest Gump’'–Readers travel on a high-speed train rocketing through Pfeiffer’s coming-of-age adventures as she explores NYC and Europe during the turbulent 1960s-‘70s amidst the significant cultural shifts and the ascendance of the film industry. Pfeiffer vividly describes the art, culture, and society of post-war Europe and New York City. Her insights into the actors and film industry were fascinating. The film industry's growth is part of a larger story involving changing attitudes and paradigm shifts of the post-war years, a time when many of us also came of age. The introduction of the birth control pill and Pfeiffer’s romantic encounters mirrored the cultural changes. Book club invitations featured film strips. members were asked to become film directors: and select highlights from the book for a film preview. We discussed the changing role of women and Pfeiffer’s lifetime goal of ‘pushing boundaries’. She felt you had to ‘leave yourself behind’ to discover uniqueness. We were drawn to her comments on women’s status: the expectation that a woman’s role was to be worthy of a man. Her reply resonated: ‘Let no one ever call me worthy.’ Pfeiffer challenged the attitudes of patriarchy, the power of men, and the sensuality of women. Her adventures allowed us to experience the paradigm shifts occurring in the world—positive and negative We agreed her talents, opportunities, and personality allowed her to take advantage of this era, and the difficulty of duplicating this experience today."

Menu: "Honoring her European adventures: Caprese skewers, olives, goat cheese & figs, Pinot Grigio."

The Revivals: “CHASING THE PANTHER covers so many points of interest that it was easy for us to chat all the way through dessert!" We took turns reading and discussing Carolyn's numerous life reflections and insights - we highlighted dozens of quotes. We marveled at Carolyn's remarkable and brave life as she fearlessly pursued her goals. It felt like two books in one: Carolyn's honest and heartfelt observations about her experiences, and a comprehensive cinematic timeline from Europe to the United States. We focused on the former, but scholars will find a valuable resource in the cinematic narrative. As Pfeiffer discussed celebrities, producers, and directors— at times this overwhelmed us, but we are not familiar with the industry and these details were a first exposure. We enjoyed Carolyn's numerous life reflections. GalleyMatch has inspired us to read books we would not have known about and/or genres we would not have selected on our own."

Menu: "Lunch overlooking the lake with multicultural appetizers: Baba ganoush with toasted pita bread (a nod to Omar Sharif); Beet and goat cheese dip with assorted fresh vegetables (Market Fresh Vegetables like one would shop for in France), Avocado chicken salad with jicama and peperoncini peppers on a bed of lettuce with French baguette (A nod to Italy) Dessert:-Lemon buttermilk ice cream with black currant jam and sugar cone."

Woodlands Lunch and Books:  "A good match for It is interesting to read about lives so different from our own and we enjoyed this coming-of-age story.  In a world of cinematic greats, it was fun to read some of the portrayals from Carolyn’s perspective.  A member commented that reading the book made them want to see Doctor Zhivago and another mentioned that they loved Omar Sharif even more after reading the book.  There was a discussion of a disturbing scene in the book and many were disappointed at the actor involved.  We also enjoyed the descriptions of some of the locales throughout Europe that we knew.  As Carolyn discovered herself through the many ups and downs of her early life, it was fascinating to watch her independence shine, especially with Suso d’Amico supporting her career choices. A few members were unfamiliar with numerous names and had to search online for them. Those that enjoy biographies and memoirs, especially of old Hollywood would enjoy this book."

Ranch Readers: "We recall the 1950s and '60s and thoroughly enjoyed CHASING THE PANTHER—the people, films, and occasions were familiar to us, making it a delightful read.

We found Ms. Pfeiffer's memoir exceptionally captivating and thought-provoking. It provided a glimpse into the golden era of cinema behind the scenes. We sympathized with her misfortunes and rejoiced in her successes as a self-sufficient and accomplished woman. We remember the movie era when Carolyn began her career and those she met and interacted with throughout. Although it seemed she lived a fairy tale life, Carolyn faced traumatic events she recounted with candor. Her strength and determination allowed her to overcome adversity and lead a fulfilling artistic life. Her memoir offers a glimpse into the world of fame and fortune in the film industry and a raw, honest portrayal of her struggles and triumphs.

The images added to our enjoyment—several members remembered having photos of Omar Sharif on their bedroom walls as teenagers. We discussed our recollections of the era that Carolyn described, including the films, directors, and producers she mentioned. Despite the notable progress made in women's rights, we realized many obstacles Carolyn faced still endure. The consensus was that success in the film industry depends on connections, and we were impressed by her ability to form relationships with influential figures, and that she was able to rise above her tragedies with grace and not let them deter her from living her best life. Recommended for readers who enjoy a memoir full of experiences more interesting than fiction and film history."

Menu: "Italian cookies that were a tribute to Carolyn's adventures in Italy."

Junior League Book Club of Kalamazoo, Michigan; Spectacles Book  Club, Geneva, Ohio, and Hagerstown Housewives, Hagerstown, Maryland
NO TWO PERSONS  by Erica Bauermeister (St. Martin's Press, 5/2/23)
A novel about the ways in which one book transforms its readers' lives.

Junior League of Kalamazoo: “Every member loved NO TWO PERSONS, the first book in a long time that we overwhelmingly agreed that we loved.T his book is about a book and the reactions and experiences of nine people who encounter it. Even those that couldn’t attend our discussion were texting with their input— the consensus—this book is a home run. We had a great discussion centered around the first line of the fictional book ‘Wandering is a gift given only to the lost,’ and the idea that no two people ever experience anything exactly the same way.

We discussed the way each character responded to the book and why we felt they were so drawn to it. We loved the little Easter Eggs of how characters were connected and agreed that the widower's story was one of our favorites/most heartbreaking. We loved how the story of each character seemed like it could be a stand-alone short story.

“We were surprised that our entire book club loved the book— we tend to be very opinionated and are almost always split on our reading selections. And that we all loved it was much more interesting, as the theme is about how people experience books differently. Just Ike the characters in the book, we had different experiences and reactions while reading it, but in the end, we were all drawn to it for many of the same reasons. Every last one of us recommends NO TWO PERSONS, especially for those who enjoy short stories, unique characters, and lively discussion."

Spectacles: "We agreed that NO TWO PERSONS was a perfect match for our group. What a thought-provoking book. Each book club member’s favorite parts, thoughts, characters, and quotes began a lively conversation about the value and power of words. The individual stories demonstrated how one book can affect readers in amazing and unexpected ways.  It was interesting to read how one book connected all the characters. 

We loved all of the characters and their stories, and everyone in our book club had a favorite.  As teachers, many of us connected with Nola—a character we could easily relate to—and we thought William and Abigail's story was heartbreaking.  We learned through Alice's story that in many ways, a writer's own life experiences affect what is written.We explored the character in each story and saw how the stories were connected.  We discussed how parts of Alice's book were found in each chapter.  It was interesting to see how and when we were able to put the bits and pieces together to tell Theo's story.   As the chapters progressed, we were able to see the impact that the book had on each person and how they moved on.  This book reminded us that no two persons interpret the same book in the same way and interpretations that we share depend on where we are at a certain time.  In addition to the written stories, we loved how the cover depicted the nine readers!

We shared some of our favorite quotes for discussion, such as ‘The beauty of books—they take you places you didn't know you needed to go.’

Menu: "Foods connected to stories: Ramen noodle salad, granola bars (Nola). PBJ sliders and potato chips (Alice and Peter), banana muffins (William)"

Hagerstown Housewives:  “We all enjoyed NO TWO PERSONS. Erica Bauermeister's writing was loved by all. We loved the premise that one story can affect people differently. Some of the most interesting topics were the different chapters that each individual person in my book club liked and their reasons why. We discussed the different stories that resonated. Since we are all book lovers in our book club, we connected to the story of each of the 9 persons who read about Theo.   We all had a soft spot for the book and its many characters. We recommend for those who enjoy relatable stories that connect people in inspiring ways.”                     

Famished for Fiction, Frisco, Texas; Lit Ladies, Indianapolis, Indiana, and Between the Pages, Mt. Morris, New York
BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN by Diane Chamberlain( St. Martins Press, 2020)
A novel of chilling intrigue, a decades-old disappearance, and a woman’s quest for the truth.

Famished for Fiction: We highly recommend BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN, which will remain with us for a long time. The contrasting timelines of the 1940s and the present day, as well as the varying perspectives, made for a captivating read." -

"Chamberlain's writing was impressive, and she has now become one of our favorite authors. Our club enjoyed this intricately crafted book and appreciated the diversity of opinions from our multi-racial group. We learned about the WPA project and the historical setting of Edenton, North Carolina, which we found fascinating. During our discussions, we explored the complex relationships between characters, such as Jesse and Anna, Morgan and Oliver. We delved into the secrets that Nellie kept, and the burden of family responsibility. The ending kept us guessing, and the short chapters made it easy to follow the multiple storylines. Most members gave this novel a 5/5 rating.”

Lit Ladies: "We all enjoyed this novel and it inspired great discussion—success! We discussed the dual timelines, the connections between the protagonists, the art restoration process and research, the epilogue ending, and various aberrations/additions in the mural that Anna added. Members commented that they ‘binged it,’ ‘loved it, ‘couldn’t put it down,’ and “read 250 pages at once.' We recommend to clubs that enjoy historical thrillers and mysteries."

Between the Pages: “Thank you for this read! Hot discussion topics were the dual storyline, life in prison, the big reveal, and small-town life. We live in a small area, so that was discussed at length. We recommend for those clubs that enjoy Intertwined storylines and thrills."                        

Thrillers by the Bookclub-SoCal, and Reckless Readers, Eastford, Connecticut
THE SOULMATE by Sally Hepworth (St. Martins Press, 4/23)
A thriller about marriage, betrayal, and the secrets that push us to the edge,

Thrillers by the Bookclub-SoCal: "We loved THE SOULMATE!, a perfect match for our book club. Most agreed that this one is one of our favorite Sally Hepworth We’re huge fans of hers. Half of our book club met Sally in person during her book tour at Zibby's Bookshop— fantastic! 

"We discussed the dynamics between the two couples and which one was the true soulmate. We appreciated how the author added important topics such as mental health, adoption, and addiction. The characters were intriguing and the level of suspense had us on the edge of our seats. We loved having the perspective of Amanda which gave us a great insight into details about the characters’ relationships.

We enjoyed talking about Gabe’s transformation from the beginning of the story, when we all thought he was a wonderful human being, to the end,  where many details about his character are revealed. The discussion questions provided an excellent guide for our chat. We recommend THE SOULMATE to book clubs that enjoy reading suspenseful family dramas with an atmospheric setting."

Reckless Readers: Normally we discuss the book for a little while, and then jump to other topics. Not last night! There was too much to discuss after reading THE SOULMATE —everyone loved the book and the twists! This book was such a conversation starter! Sally Hepworth is so good at working mental health into her books. Hepworth nailed the portrayal of mental illness as well as codependency— the character Gabe was hard to read, because of how accurately she depicted his illness. Members wanted to break down the relationship between Pippa and Gave, and how forgiving Pippa was when most people would walk. It was an emotional conversation, with so many personal perspectives and stories.

Most members had never read a Sally Hepworth book. After last night, everyone added her books to their TBR lists. I’ve been reading her for years, and was happy to see they felt the same way about her books! Sally is an excellent storyteller. Thank you so much for the excellent #GalleyMatch.

Menu: "Soulmate bars—peanut butter & jelly—the ultimate soulmate of food! And “The Drop Martini” —a cranberry lemon drop martini, that will send you over the edge after only a few! " 

Get Lit Book Club, Coto de Caza, California, and April's Book Chat, Frisco, Texas

THE STORIES WE TELL: Every Piece of Your Story Matters by Joanna Gaines (Harper Select . 11/8/22)
The first solo memoir from the Magnolia co-founder.

April's Book Chat: THE STORIES WE TELL sparked lively conversations and reflections among our members. Many members resonated with Gaines' experiences of racial hate and bullying, finding validation in their own experiences with mixed heritage. The book inspired us to consider journaling as a means of processing life's events and thoughts, and we appreciated the pearls of wisdom scattered throughout the text. While some members debated whether the book was self-help or memoir, others simply enjoyed it for what it was. We recommend this book to fans of personal development books.

We met at Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea Shops at Creekside in Frisco, Texas, a cozy spot with a welcoming atmosphere reminiscent of Gaines' own design style, making it the perfect location for our discussion."

Get Lit: "We’re all fans of Chip and Joanna’s and enjoyed learning more about her. Chip is so funny and Joanna always appears to be calm, so it was interesting learning about her childhood and the difficulties she faced.

“Everyone agreed the book was a fast read and we enjoyed getting to know Joanna and her story, earning about how she grew up, met Chip, how they started their business and raised children in a world that can be harsh sometimes. We discussed ‘growing up being ‘different’ than her classmates and how we overcame that. Some members found junior high to be difficult while others struggled in high school. We recommend it to those who enjoy memoirs/ nonfiction/self-help. Fans of Chip and Joanna should pick up THE STORIES WE TELL, and sit down to read it with some biscuits and jam as we did!”
Menu: “We made and discussed recipes from THE MAGNOLIA TABLE COOKBOOK! We enjoyed Joanna‘s famous biscuits, silo cookies, scones, and stuffed mushrooms. Joanna is gifted with her baking and decorating— such a unique individual."

Jensen Beach County Club's Womens Book Club of Florida,  The Wine Club With a Book Problem of Acworth, Georgia, and Blu Stocking Literary Society of West Allis, Wisconsin
THE JEWELER OF STOLEN DREAMS by M.J. Rose (Blue Box, 2/23)

A tale of two passionate women— a  famous jewelry designer who fights to protect her company and rescue the man she loves, and an auctioneer whose gifts reveal a secret that endangers her very life, 

Jensen Beach County Club:  “We loved the descriptions of the jewelry that Suzanne Belperron made and the majority of us had researched Suzanne's designs after reading the book.A good match for our book club. We enjoy historical fiction or books with strong women. This novel features a dual timeline— France, 1942, and New York, 1986. Suzanne is a sought-after jewelry designer in France and her longtime lover and business partner, Bernard has been arrested by the Nazis. Violine is an appraiser for an auction company in 1986 and has been approached by Paul Osgood about selling family antiques. While visiting his home, she discovers a hidden compartment in a vintage Louis Vuitton case containing WWII-era jewelry. Violine is gifted with learning the history and secrets of objects she touches, and their owners and realizes that the jewelry has a long and tragic history. Violine and Paul work together to discover the history of the case and the jewelry. We discussed how Dixie and Suzanne demonstrated this in their work for the resistance movement."

Menu: "French rose wine, croissants, olives, brie, baguettes with French butter, chocolate mousse, cheesecake, dark chocolate squares, and cappuccino."

The Wine Club With a Book Problem "THE JEWELER OF STOLEN DREAMS is a captivating and powerful story that grabs you from the first page— a good match for as we like historical fiction with strong women. We enjoy books in which we learn something new, and the story prompts us further investigate a topic—in this case, Suzanne Belperron, one of the most innovative jewelers of her time, and her jewelry designs. This intriguing story explored Suzanne Belperron's courage and those who participated in the French Resistance by helping Jewish families leave France. We liked the novel's alternating dual timelines—Paris 1942 and New York 1986—which link Suzanne and Violine, an art historian/appraiser with a  supernatural gift.  We noted that this is the first book we've read that involves psychometry.” 

Rose has written a beautiful and descriptive story. We recommend this book to those that enjoy magical realism, suspense, and World War II fiction."

Menu: "Brie, apples, Classic French Salad (romaine, tarragon, chives, walnuts with a lemon vinaigrette, Ina Garten's Bouef Bourguignon, Mashed Potatoes, macarons. truffles."

Blu Stocking: An excellent selection for our club. This story was fascinating and the psychometry was an interesting twist. We enjoy reading about real people in history within a historical fiction context. While the characters are placed in a fictional story, there is much to take away. Several of us did some research on Suzanne Belperron and her jewelry designs. We also like the alternating timeline. robust discussion. We discussed psychometry's 'unbelievable' aspect juxtapositioned with an equally 'unbelievable' period of history as the holocaust. Also, we talked about the courage and actions of people in this world that are so brave and committed even in the face of personal danger, as well as the variety of themes—determination, strength of character, hope, faith, and love in all its incarnations, lovers (Suzanne/Bernard/Jean), friends (Suzanne & Dixie) and love of country/places (France)”

Curious Book Club,  Frederick, Maryland; St. Louis Women’s Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri; First Saturday Book Club, Pensacola, Florida

PRACTICE GIRL by Estelle Laure (Penguin Teen, 5/22)
A novel about a girl who rejects her label and decides for herself who she is to the world—about reputation and double standards,

St. Louis Women’s Book Club: “The themes were fantastic and the character was so likable. This YA novel explores high school, sexuality, friendships, and relationships. The themes of finding first loves and figuring out who you are made for great conversation! We discussed how high school is portrayed in the media today— are students really doing drugs, alcohol, and sex, as much as they portray? The book was well written and it was easy to visualize the small town high school. There were great moments in the friendships and relationships that are good lessons for that demographic.

Curious Book Club: “It was fun to read a book we typically wouldn’t have chosen - we hadn’t even heard of this one!t’s a YA coming of age/romance that features an angsty teenager that is coping with the loss of a parent and being used by boys who she thinks care for her. The story focuses on the challenges of dating and sex in high school. We loved the friendship storyline that developed throughout the book. Although the main character is very angsty, the emotions were real and raw throughout the story.  We thought that the ending of the story was the most interesting! We loved that Jo was able to have a heart-to-heart with her mom and stepdad to build a better relationship with her family. We all were in favor of the guy she chooses in the end! l. Recommended for those who enjoy YA coming-of-age stories.”

Menu: We met at a diner because there was a diner in the story!

First Saturday Book Club: "We had a great discussion about PRACTICE GIRLan honest, moving YA read that should be in the hands of more teens. PRACTICE GIRL offers a strong look at what it means to participate in a relationship and the need for teens to understand the ramifications of sex and responsibility and dedication to relationships. The author writes with emotional depth—we feel everything Jo goes through, and we root for Jo to win at wrestling and life. It’s clever, charming, and poignant. 

We discussed teenage behaviors: that Jo was not responsible for Sam kissing her yet she is blamed, how girls need to have girl relationships so they have support, the importance of family, taking others into consideration while establishing boundaries, and understanding the relationship before sex. Also, that growing up and having friendships change is difficult but a part of growing up. We all enjoyed this coming-of-age novel, recommended for this for groups that enjoy YA lit with emotional depth."

Happy Bookers, Linn Missouri, Lit Ladies Read Melbourne, Florida, and St. Louis Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri; and Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York
WEYWARD by Emila Hart (St. Martin's Press, 3/23)

A novel weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries— a story of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world

Happy Bookers: “A gem of a book with resilient female characters is our favorite GalleyMatch to date.”- on a novel weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries— a story of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world, read with galleys from
“Hart has given us much to ponder in a most bewitching tale. Altha, Violet, and Kate will long stay with us for their resilience and fortitude. We agreed that witchcraft isn’t accomplished through spells, but by their connection to the world around them -— and that was most appreciated and enjoyed. We cheered at the comeuppance of the perpetrators who caused harm both physical and mental to the female characters. We discussed the plight and strength of women over the ages dealing with similar treatment. The three women characters were enthralling. The author wove the three timelines of the Weyward women’s lives together expertly. Their plight, resourcefulness, and special powers along with their ties to nature and their strength to survive amidst adversity and ill-treatment earn these characters a place in your heart. The short chapters breeze along while keeping the depth of the characters and story strong. Highly recommended by our group to fellow readers. The perfect fall read. The perfect anytime read! Cannot wait to read more from this author.”

Menu: Orton stew (chicken and rice soup) W pendant cakes(cupcakes), Witches sticks and twigs (fried tortilla strips), Cottage dip (cowboy caviar), Crow Bars (brownie bites), Insect Wings(corn chips), Graham Crackers(saltines and wheat thins), and Morgs(moon drop grapes)in a member’s backyard and woods for our book reenactments."

Lit Ladies Read:“ We loved everything about this book! This is a very compelling read that highlights the connection between women, family, and nature."
WEYWARD is a beautifully written story about the strength and resilience of three different women. The story is told in alternating timelines, in different centuries leaving the reader to wonder how these women are related. The Weyward women all face similar, yet different, hardships of violence, abuse, and expectations of society that they must overcome. The women all have a very strong connection to nature and find strength and inner peace through this connection. The alternating timelines advance the story and keep you wanting more. The descriptive language paints a clear picture, and we loved the alternating timelines—each character's story was compelling and gave a feel for what these women had to endure. We spent quite a bit of time discussing the treatment of women who were deemed ’weird’ throughout history. It is frightening to think that there was a period in history when women could be labeled witches and executed based on nothing more than conjecture and failure to conform to societal expectations. Altha's storyline, in particular really highlighted how ludicrous the idea of witchcraft really is and how scared people were of anyone who was different. Another hot topic was domestic abuse and how difficult it can be for abused women to escape their abuser. Both Kate's and Violet's stories dealt with physical and sexual abuse that required both women to find the strength to remove themselves from their situations. We recommend for those who enjoy stories about women finding their inner strength to overcome hardship.”

Menu: Witching Hour Cabernet Sauvignon and witch hat cupcakes.

St. Louis: "WEYWARD was intense, honest and deeply connected to today’s time The three timelines and main character add layers of interconnected themes and details. At first glance, these are very different women but ultimately all face similar situations. We discussed feminism and the growth of women throughout time, how the patriarchy impacts women’s abilities to make choices, and Nature vs nurture—these women all were born to be Weyward, not raised to be Weyward.
Recommended for those who enjoyed THE LOST APOTHECARY by Sarah Penner; three perspectives or time periods in stories; the power of nature; books about powerful women and the ability to be strong despite the circumstances and external environment. This book has some trigger warnings that I think all readers need to be extremely mindful of before reading (physical/verbal abuse, parental abuse, rape, pregnancy loss, abortion, jail).

Reading Between the Wines: “This book was a perfect match for our club. We all enjoyed this story of three women from the same family line at different points in time. There was so much to discuss here: our connection to the natural world, overcoming trauma, giving yourself grace, and the strength and resilience of women, feminism, women’s connection to the natural world, family legacies, and overcoming trauma We thought the author did a great job incorporating the interconnected stories of Althea, Violet, and Kate. Recommended to book clubs that enjoy women’s fiction, historical fiction with dual timelines, and a touch of magical realism.

Menu: "Food to honor the garden at Weyward cottage, including veggie crackers with garden vegetables, and basil cheese, roasted vegetable pizza, and fresh veggies with hummus. We also had blueberry scones with jam and tea and biscuits as a nod to the English settings in the book."

Longwood Ladies, Goshen, Kentucky and Colonies Book Club, Yorkville, Illinois
ANGELS OF THE RESISTANCE by Noelle Salazar ( Mira,/ HTP, 11/22)
A story inspired by true events, about courageous women who risked everything for their country, family, and each other

Longwood Ladies: “ANGELS OF THE RESISTANCE was a great book club book.We all loved learning about a neutral country. It was a new take on that era that we all really enjoyed! We discussed how much we learned about the World War II era, We talked a lot about and enjoyed the fact that it shined the light on a true sister act.  It was the first historical fiction I’ve read that took place in the Netherlands during World War II. It was a refreshing change to hear the trials from a neutral neighbor. The characters were easy to relate to and love and my heart was wrenched by their bravery and struggles. We fell in love with the characters —they were strong, intelligent, patient women right from the start and their growth and determination were astounding. We recommend ANGELS to those who enjoy historical fiction and reading about strong women! If you enjoyed THE LILAC GIRLS, ROSE CODE, or Salazar’s first book, FLIGHT GIRLS, you will enjoy this historical fiction. We all thank you immensely!”

Colonies Book Club: "Some members were in tears throughout this beautifully told story of two young sisters who risk everything for their homeland during World War II. Our members loved this book. Some comments: A heart-wrenching read that is full of tenderness, resilience, courage, brutality, and devotion. The author did a great job of opening our eyes to the hardships of living through Nazi occupation Salazar demonstrated how strong the bonds of sisters, family, and friends are in a powerful way. This story is told from the perspective of a young teenage girl and how innocence is lost through the actions necessary to fight the evil that ripped her country apart. We were unfamiliar with the occupation of the Netherlands and learned about their struggle with starvation and freezing during the last years of the war. We couldn’t imagine girls getting involved with the resistance and what they were willing to do for their country. We all felt the guilt that Lien carried throughout her life over her little sister's death and the catalyst that was for her to join the resistance. We loved the epilogue and the closure it gave us about all of the character

Literary Lovelies, Yonkers, New York; Reckless Readers, East Lyme, Connecticut: CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut
THE VILLA by Rachel Hawkins(St. Martin's Press, 1/23)
A gothic suspense novel set at an Italian villa with a dark history.

Literary Lovelies:" We all loved the book! This book has books within the book!”-“We discussed both storylines and if we found ourselves drawn to one story or the other. Susan loved the dual timelines and thought the Mari storyline felt like a movie! We also discussed whether we saw that Mark and Chess were together. A lot of people had thoughts on Chess! We decided she was either a Love or hate character. We also discussed if you have to like the characters to like a book. Chelsey thought the book reminded her of Rachel’s other books and talked about her distinct writing style. We loved how easy it was to read, and enjoyed the epistolary chapters that enhanced the story. We felt the book wrapped up a little quickly and we wished that Emily had stood up for herself a little more! But the Italy location was a favorite of ours as well as the slight gothic style of the Mari plot line. We recommend THE VILLA to clubs that enjoy dual timelines in beautiful settings! Thank you so much for this opportunity!"

Menu: "We meet virtually, but enjoyed some limoncello while reading the book! Emily and Chess are a little over-served on limoncello their first night in Italy."

CT Lit Book Club: This book had us in a heated discussion about what we would do if we were in the main character’s situation. We found ourselves in a coffee shop yelling about dead husbands and realized we probably should put our books on the tabble so other patrons see we are actually discussing a book!!
“We were excited to preview a Rachel Hawkins title! The majority of us have read THE WIFE UPSTAIRS and RECKLESS GIRLS, along with some of her Erin Sterling books.
We had high expectations for THE VILLA, as it is highly anticipated by the bookstagram community. Overall, we expected it to be more ‘thrilling’, but we enjoyed it and were enthralled wondering what was going to end up happening and how the two stories of what took place at the villa were going to bridge together. One member described her reading experience as the story ‘always having an air of suspicion to keep her intrigued.’ We really loved the setting of the villa in Italy and loved the throwbacks to the 70s! We recommend this book to those that enjoy drama, and books like BIG LITTLE LIES.’

Reckless Readers: "Everyone loved the book, rating it Hawkins’s best yet!"- “This is our second GalleyMatch for a Rachel Hawkins book, and we were very excited! Most members read THE VILLA in two sittings We could not wait to rant about the characters we hated, dissect the twists, and gush over the amazing setting. There was a lot of early chatter in the week before our meeting — those that finished it early could not wait to have our discussion.

The level of betrayal among friends was the biggest discussion. We loved the setting, the dual timelines, and the parallels between them. The twists were nonstop and unexpected, which kept us page-turning. The dual timelines made the story. Going from Emily & Chess presently staying at the Villa, to Mari in 1974, the reader gets the full picture of what really happened at The Villa Aestas. Both stories have parallels that are frightening. It seems that you can’t stay at the Villa without it taking someone from you. There are love triangles, friendship deceits, thrilling reveals, and murder to fit everyone’s appetite. It’s dark and atmospheric in ways we have never seen from Rachel Hawkins. She packed so many surprises into this book, but the last chapter is the biggest. There was a hot debate among the group on whether that last chapter was even necessary. How many twists are too many? We recommend if you enjoy big twisty thrillers that grip you until the end —add it to your preorder list! It's out in January, and will be on everyone’s hot list for 2023!"

Menu: “Italian lemon theme to match book: lemon basil pasta salad, lemon ricotta hot cheese dip, limoncello cocktails.”

Melanie's Book Club, Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Riverside Readers, Plain City, Ohio; Amy's Book Club, Boulder Colorado
A LIGHT IN THE FOREST by Melissa Payne (Lake Union, 2022)
An emotional and suspenseful novel about the weight of secrets and the healing power of friends and family.

Riverside Readers: “We loved the Ohio setting and although Crystal was a made-up town, we have been to similar small towns and could picture the intent while we read. We appreciated the fun and quirky characters with a hint of underlying mystery in the book. don't know. We discussed the small town, the stereotypes, and the reality, not all small towns in Ohio are like that but we knew why the author picked to use the stereotypical poor/mining town in Appalachia. The timelines coordinated well together with the flashbacks. The characters of the small town were unique and we liked how they interacted with each other—they balanced the trauma. The reader's guide for this book was great. Thank you! We love being introduced to new authors and this time it helped build a new small community of readers, as this is a new book club."

Amy's Book Club: "The setting drew us in, the characters moved us, and the story had us in its grip —and caused many of us to stay up way too late reading. Everyone loved the characters and felt invested in their stories, and wanted to know more about some of the more peripheral characters. We discussed, justice, bullies getting away with things, whether the law is involved or not, and how the town changed regarding violence toward the LGBTQIA+ community. We discussed the repetition of ‘running’ at the beginning and how it would have felt to be Vega just trying to escape and survive; the town dynamics and why it was mostly accepted that the Harrisons could bully who they pleased without repercussions — contrasted with the senseless shooting that took place the night before we met in Colorado Springs and whether we thought there would or could be justice.
We discussed which of the lovable/heroic characters we enjoyed the most and whether Vega was a hero or a victim;, the pacing of how quickly Vega developed community in Crystal, secrets and why they should be kept or told; our reactions to Vega checking Instagram and our internal screamings at her of what we wanted her to do, the town's support of Eve, and what would happen next for all of them. We recommend A LIGHT IN THE FOREST to book clubs that enjoy complicated relationships and a multi-decade mystery to unravel."

Melanie’s Book Club:" We loved the opportunity to preview A LIGHT IN THE FOREST. We are reading another Melissa Payne book this month, as a result! Everyone had positive comments and the book made for great conversation. One member who is stingy with book ratings gave our selection 5 stars. This is a thoughtful, well-written book that discusses real-life issues with great character development. A main discussion point was the different social issues addressed in the book and that the author didn't 'preach' about them. Our group has many teachers and nurses in it and this made an impact on us, especially since we see these issues in the lives of our students and patients. We appreciated the character development and that through the different points of view, we were able to put pieces of the puzzle together before Vega did, yet it didn’t take away from the mystery. This book is a must-read! We look forward to seeing if her other books have a similar writing style and theme."

Madame Woods Book Club of Wiscasset, Maine, and Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey
THE WAYS WE HIDE, by Kristina McMorris (Sourcebooks, 2022)
A sweeping World War II tale of an illusionist whose recruitment by British intelligence sets her on a perilous, heartrending path.Madame Woods: “This book changed the way some of our readers perceive historical fiction. We were amazed at the authors’ ability to weave real-life events into an intricate and complex story. McMorris grabbed our attention with her latest novel, based on true facts This character-driven novel has elements of romance and suspense with a bittersweet ending. The novel begins with the main character Fenna whose life was significantly shaped by a stampede on Christmas Eve. Her perseverance from childhood helped her maintain her determination and profound instinct to get through life’s challenges along the way. Fenna, an intelligent character, is shaped by life events and uses those experiences to maneuver through challenges. This novel has elements of history and fiction interwoven in a way that makes the reader feel as though they are right alongside the characters.
We discuss the intricacies of the story and how relatable the main character was. McMorris thoughtfully and seamlessly transitions from a story of romance, into a detail-oriented spy novel, and keeps the reader o n the edge of their seat in anticipation of what direction the story and characters would go next. She challenges the reader to keep up with current and past storylines, all while inserting historical events, distracting the reader - they are well intertwined into the characters' lives and the book’s storylines. THE WAYS WE HIDE offers a variety of themes that would appeal to a large readership. So many beautiful moments, even in the last chapters of the book, that offer a sweet and real conclusion.”Book Club Girls of Sparta: "We enjoyed reading about a part of history we did not know of.Most of us were unaware of the Dutch involvement in the resistance or hadn't heard of this chapter of history where women recruited into the resistance worked on inventing escape aids that were hidden in things like games, and the hiding of clues and maps in ordinary objects was interesting to learn about. The resounding takeaway was the fact that so many people risked everything to help the resistance, to help other humans stay safe. Many questioned whether they would be as brave, especially being a woman. We found the most connecting part of the story was Fennas; bravery, and fearlessness even though she had deep trauma from the fire. We recommend THE WAYS WE HIDE to groups interested in historical fiction about new pieces of World War III history and strong female protagonists."Menu: Tea and speculoos cookies.

Brunch & Books Club, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Literary Fires Everywhere, Cortland Manor, New York
THE BODYGUARD by Katherine Center, (St. Martin's Press, 7/22)
A romantic and humorous romance about a bodyguard, and the movie star she's hired to protect, as they work to keep things professional under crazy circumstances

Brunch & Books: “We discussed the main character’s growth. Everyone enjoyed the love story, but seeing how the character grew into herself from start to finish was what really stood out. She gained confidence and self-respect that she didn’t have at the beginning and that really resonated with members. The discussion questions prompted a good conversation that brought to mind parts of the story we might not have discussed.
I Ioved this fun and funny book with every piece of my heart. It was my first Katherine Center novel and it felt as if I was sitting with a BFF listening to her tell e this hilarious and heartwarming story. 10/10! The Author’s Note alone is worth 5 stars. Don’t skip it! Recommended for those who enjoy funny, happy love stories! We’re so appreciative of the opportunity! “

Literary Fires Everywhere: "We all enjoyed this book. I am definitely not a regular rom-com reader— I usually find myself rolling my eyes at plots that make others swoon— but I really did love this book. It’s super cute, engaging, and the characters feel real. Even the setting popped right off the page! Definitely recommend grabbing this one!

Hannah has been hired to be a bodyguard to Jack, a Hollywood burnout who would prefer not to have a bodyguard. The pair have palpable chemistry, and I quickly found myself rooting for them. We are not huge romance readers and we’re all pleasantly surprised that it was both fluffy and deep, a un reads with a bit of drama. We all loved the touches and the author’s descriptions. (The Bush steak knives)."

Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado;  and Bookish Ladies,  Coto de Caza, California
HESTER by Laurie Lico Albanese (St. Martin's Press, 10/4/22)
A vivid reimagining of the woman who inspired Hester Prynne, the tragic heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and a journey into the enduring legacy of New England's witchcraft trials.
Get Woke: "HESTER’s message empowered us! As Laurie Lico Albanese writes, Hester Prynne is ‘a heroic woman who defies powerful men and vengeful villagers by wearing the symbol of her shame like a badge of courage.’ Heroic women! May we be them and may we raise them!”A major symbol, incorporating the books' themes, was  Isobel's sewing skill and her ability to design and stitch beautiful patterns and scenes that revealed emotions and contained hidden messages.
Each member of the book club was asked to bring a bottle of wine (or another beverage of choice), containing a label that could reflect a 'hidden' message or theme of the story. Our discussion involved each of the members presenting her wine and describing the label, revealing aspects of the novel. These included PROPHECY WINES— The label’s images relate to the supernatural world, and scenes with shooting stars. Isobel struggles to accept her power, and the woman on the label exhibits power.*TEMPTATION AND EVE—Depicts Eve tempting Adam. Isobel’s community shuns her as a witch when she becomes pregnant. EVE elicited discussion on the Bible story – Isobel notes its message about untrustworthy women. GNARLY HEAD WINES—summarizes many characters' mental states: Hawthorne struggles with his family history of witch trials. Isobel struggles with her artistic creations and powers. *KALEIDOSCOPE:— Isabel’s gift enables her to create beautiful designs and messages on clothing and understand others’ emotions. WITCHING HOUR: summarized the novel’s mystery, fantasy, excitement, and passion.
Menu: A ‘community rice bowl’ is symbolic of the support and encouragement women shared in the novel. Member brought ingredients. Along with the theme of wine, dessert bars were labeled ‘Primitive Nuts’: many characters reflect this title!
We  also shared a representation of each member’s name created by a woman with synesthesia.”
Ranch Readers: "We were intrigued by the premise of imagining the woman who inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne's protagonist, Hester Prynne, in his iconic novel, THE SCARLET LETTER, In Hester, they meet -- Nathan is a young struggling writer, who is haunted by his ancestor's treatment of the witches of Salem. and Isobel is a young wife, who recently immigrated from Scotland, and has been deserted by an opium-addicted husband who left her destitute. Isobel supports herself by creating exquisite embroidery and also through the kindness of others in town. She has synesthesia-a sensory phenomenon in which she sees letters and sounds expressed in colors. Isobel learns at an early she to hide this ability so that she would not be called a witch, but she uses her extraordinary skill to create beautiful work. We agreed that the book's language was very descriptive and enthralling and we had a long discussion about our own creative processes that have enriched our life.

We thought character of 'Hathorne' -- what the author calls Hawthorne-- could have been developed a bit further as he seemed shallow and his treatment of Isobel seemed dismissive. The social issues of the time were well highlighted by the author with a concurrent story of the Witch Trials in Salem, the plight of fleeing saves using the Underground Railroad, the mistreatment and victimization of women who had no rights, the struggles of prejudice that immigrants face in America We enjoyed the novel and feel it is going to become a best seller - it was definitely a compelling read!

Menu: Bee-shaped tea cakes and chocolate and lemon lavender scones to enjoy with tea and coffee.

Bookish Ladies: "Everyone enjoyed the book and a fresh reboot of The Scarlet Letter. The author did a wonderful retelling and we loved the characters and the story. We had a great discussion and we’re so happy to have this fun experience. We highly recommend HESTER! One member loved the book so much that she took a trip to Salem - ok it was a brilliant coincidence that she was going there!"

Menu: "Many colorful vegetables mentioned in the book."

Famished for Fiction, Plano, Texas and Cork and Olive Book Club, Valrico, Florida
HALF-BLOWN ROSE by Leesa-Cross Smith (Grand Central, 2022)
A novel about a woman remaking her life after her husband’s betrayal leads to a year of travel, art, and passion in Paris.

Famished for Fiction: “We had a great time discussing HALF-BLOWN ROSE! This book really stretched us!" We discussed infidelity quite a bit: some members felt that the current problem —the marriage— needed to be resolved before embarking on another adventure—a relationship with Loup. We discussed that Vincent and Loup being independently wealthy contributed to their ability to just 'do as they pleased'. Vincent runs off to Paris; she and Loup travel by train to visit Theo, and family. Her family’s laid-back attitude when she shows up with Loup is a bit shocking; but, put into the context of their family, it made sense. SPOILER ALERT: We felt the ending left questions unanswered...maybe a sequel is in the plans? We would love to know if Vincent will return to Cillian, stay with Loup or go out on her own. We felt she was d searching for her freedom by leaving Kentucky and fleeing to Paris; but, in the end, becomes more tied down with the pregnancy. We recommend this book to those who enjoy Paris, romance, art, and secrets."Menu: We loved that the novel was set in Paris so we met at a French restaurant, Toulouse Cafe & Bar for quiche, Toulouse salad, lobster rolls, lobster risotto, and rose-themed drinks: French 77 and Rose all-day punch."

Cork and Olive: We looked forward to HALF-BLOWN ROSE, as we enjoyed Leesa’s novel THIS CLOSE TO OKAY and this did not disappoint! We enjoy her writing style—a phenomenal writer!” There was much discussion about whether Vincent should have led her husband on, whether it was wrong for her to be with Loup before a decision about her marriage, and whether she should have reached out to Tully and his mother. No one liked Cillian's actions and would have preferred Vincent to end her marriage if she was going to go be with someone else. We discussed Vincent's relationship with her children and the growing relationship with Tully, who we loved. There was concern that Vincent spent more time on Tully with her children, although we know that she loved them - she just didn't share as much of herself with them. We all want an epilogue!! We agreed that we needed to know what Vincent decided. Some hoped she kicked both Cillian and Loop to the curb, stayed in Paris, and raised the baby herself. Some thought she might have both... We loved that she decided to just do whatever she felt— eat pastries, sleep during the day, do whatever her spirit felt, while she proces

sed this punch in the gut to her life.
We enjoyed the references to food, art, books, and music. It was SO brilliant that Leesa created Vincent's Spotify playlists. We were delighted to see videos and references to characters on @anchoismusic. What a great way to bring the book to life! C'est bon bon bon! We recommend this novel to those who enjoy travel, art, and passion.”

Menu: "Our menu featured foods referenced —wonderfully varied and not all French! Cranberry Meatballs and Mashed Potatoes, Chickpea Stew, Fig Jam and Cheese with crackers, Rosemary Flatbread with Hummus and Olives, Pain au Chocolat, Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, and of course, Champagne!

Sensational Seven of Appleton, Wisconsin, Literary Lovelies of Yonkers, New York Junior League of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Sensational Seven of Appleton, Wisconsin, Finer Things Book Club of Brentwood, California
THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK by Ellen Marie Wiseman (Kensington, 8/22)
The story about the Willowbrook State School, the Staten Island mental institution that shocked a nation when exposed in the 1970s as a dumping ground for unwanted children.

Sensational Seven: "We are fortunate to read this new novel from a favorite author! Once again, Ms. Wiseman has so eloquently written about another of our nation’s past social injustices. We compared our strong responses to the novel with other books with difficult topics. She has shed light on a piece of our history that is so important to learn about. Her take on Willowbrook through the eyes of sixteen-year-old, Sage Winters, was a riveting ‘page-turner.’ When Sage discovers her twin sister, Rosemary, was alive and had been institutionalized for years at Willowbrook; she courageously heads to the school to rescue her. We discussed our emotional responses in realizing that these atrocities occurred in our lifetime and in our country Our discussion centered on how the children’s parents felt after learning the truth of events at the ‘school.’ We were sad and horrified over Willowbrook, and had for the staff and media who were crucial to its closure. We felt grateful for the advancement in care and treatment of the mentally ill and incapacitated members of our society today.”

Menu: "Our take on related food/drink: White chicken chili, representing the colorless mush that residents at Willowbrook were served daily. We also drank Tequila Sunrises, a popular cocktail in 1972, using orange juice. In the novel, the nurses mixed medication in orange juice to keep the residents sedated. No meds were used by our book club- only tequila and grenadine in the OJ!”

Junior League of Kalamazoo: “We enjoy historical fiction and mystery and this was the best of both worlds!”Some members recently toured a State Hospital in Michigan and were able to compare what they learned with Willowbrook. Ellen Marie Wiseman joined us via Zoom to answer questions about how she researched the book and where the ideas came from— including the big twist. It was especially fun because she had been at the memorial at Willowbrook the day before and was able to tell us about meeting some of the doctors and attendants who helped to blow the whistle, per se. We discussed society during this time, and why it was often recommended for parents to place children in a place like Willowbrook. We discussed how parents could see their child in that state, not say anything- many of us agreed that during that time, people deferred to 'authority’ and took the doctors at their word. Today, parents question and challenge authority, especially when it comes to doctors and teachers. We agreed this was one of the saddest stories we had heard and had time wrapping our heads around the fact that while it’s a fictional story the setting, conditions, and many of the characters were real. We also didn’t see the twist coming (Ellen said that even her editor didn’t see that one!).”

Menu: "Pancakes and bacon, a build-your-own-oatmeal bar, and orange juice —spiked with champagne instead of sedatives, as in the book."

Literary Lovelies: "This was truly a fascinating book that led to a great discussion about mental health. We couldn't believe it was based on a true story! We all loved this fascinating story, and it was heartbreaking to know it was based on a real situation. The subject matter was difficult but we all enjoyed the historical fiction and somewhat true crime genre in this well-written and detailed novel. Wiseman graphically describes the school, where employees brutalize and demean their residents. It’s after a reporter sneaks into the facility— the journalist is Geraldo Rivera, who was instrumental in getting the facility rehabbed and shut down —that light is shed on these inhumane conditions. We discussed the women brought to this facility, mental health, and the management of those needing special care. It was terrible that couldn’t speak up for themselves, and that no one ever checked on them This dark and gritty story will stay with us for a long time—it was so interesting and led to a fabulous discussion. This is my first time reading this author and I will be looking for more of her books."⁣

Elizabeth's Book Chat, Frisco, Texas; Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey; North Wales Area Public Library; Pennsylvania
WHEN WE LET GO  by Rochelle Weinstein

A novel about mothers and daughters, loss and acceptance, the lessons that come from heartbreak, and the healing it takes to embrace the joy of a second chance.Elizabeth’s Book Chat: "A wonderful match We had a very lively discussion with author Rochelle Weinstein and the book was so well received. Everyone loved it! There were different elements of the story that each of us could relate to which made it even more interesting. The author's style of writing is genuine and heartfelt. As we read the words on the page, we also were able to actually feel the emotions. What was very interesting was when members asked Rochelle where the idea for the tree came from. The response kept everyone chatting for a while. Great interaction!”
Menu: Charcuterie board, lemon cake, and wine

Book Club Girls Sparta: “A new author to us, and this moving story was enjoyed by all. Many could relate to the protagonist's profound level of loss and trauma and how one moment in her young life altered her future relationships with those closest to her. Trauma, grief, mother-daughter, sister, family, forgiveness, strength, and courage were all key factors that resonated with our readers. We discussed the importance of self-care and women surrounding themselves with people they can trust and open up to, and give themselves permission to move on and heal. We enjoyed the mother/ daughter theme. Read this moving novel if you are looking for a story of mothers, daughters, first love, second chances, and the powerful bond of sisters. “

 

Menu: "Wine and chocolate for self-care, a summer picnic with farm-to-table foods, lemonade, tea, and homemade fruit pies, based on Avery's garden and farm."
North Wales Area Library Book Club: “A big THANK YOU! This book was excellent! The believable characters drew readers in, and the settings were easy to picture. Several interesting relationships and ways of dealing with loss were explored. It was a well-built novel with interesting situations about dealing with grief, family relationships, and trust."

Over-Readers Anonymous of Cumming, Georgia, Reckless Readers of Eastford, Connecticut, Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey, Wine Club with a Book Problem, Woodstock, Georgia
OVERKILL by Sandra Brown (Grand Central, 8/22)
A crime thriller in which a conflict of conscience between a former football star and an ambitious state prosecutor swiftly intensifies into a fight for their lives.

Reckless Readers: "OVERKILL satisfied the thriller need, romance desire, and contemplative fiction we all love. It was an excellent book club book that sparked much conversation: the question of whether or not we would want to stay alive, or if we could actually pull the plug ourselves on a loved one, after being in a coma with no brain activity. The characters had moral and religious struggles with this choice, and we empathized with them. We loved the spicy romance in the book —with much discussion about how much more of it everyone wanted—as well as the direction of the story. Eban’s character sent us on another heated conversation about entitlement and the evils that wealth can add to an already evil person’s being. Sandra Brown did an excellent job of making us hate him, and kept us page-turning hoping for a better outcome. Recommended for book clubs that enjoy a little romance in their thriller, and heavy discussion points."

Menu: "Our drink—the Blue Overkill (vodka blue Curacao, and pineapple juice) was tasty, like Zach, and packed a punch like Kate. Paired with charcuterie."

Over-Readers Anonymous: “We recommend OVERKILL for those who enjoy crime fiction, suspense thrillers, and contemporary issues with a little romance thrown in! Our book club has enjoyed several Sandra Brown novels, they're entertaining and also touch on issues that lead to a deeper discussion. We discussed the ethical dilemma at the foundation of OVERKILL and delved into medical ethics, end-of-life planning, the characters, the plot, the judicial system, and the celebrity spotlight. As we all have roots in the south, we liked the Atlanta, New Orleans, and North Carolina settings. OVERKILL was action-packed and easy-to-read."

Menu: “As a BBQ menu was suggested by the author, met at a local restaurant for pulled pork!." (see Sandra Brown's recipe)

Book Club Girls: "An enjoyable read with developed characters an incredible, setting, and suspense well paced throughout the book.  We discussed what we would do if faced with the same situation as Zach even though none of our members have had to face this situation. What many of us thought should have been a clear-cut choice, as we wove through the narrative we came to understand that there were so many layers to this that came into play that it wasn't as simple as we believed in the beginning. The most hated character was the villain Eban and although he is fictional, we agreed there are real people in the world like him. When you are so wealthy that you can make so many disastrous choices as a human with no consequences was highlighted. What would have happened to someone else who wasn't as wealthy? Also, we all agreed that no one really thought about Rebecca, until they were forced to, which led us to agree it was unacceptable for her to continue to be victimized in a way for so very long. But, if she was allowed to let go in the beginning, there wouldn't be as much of a plot line for the book. Loved the premise of the story, it gave lots of topics for discussion.

Menu: "We recommend bbq, pulled pork sandwiches, cole slaw, baked beans, and any tailgating type of foods that would be a nod to North Carolina and football."

Wine Club with a Book Problem: "OVERKILL is a good thought-provoking story. The topic of life support and having your affairs in order gave us a good discussion, and we enjoyed the setting of Atlanta since we live in the area. Former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Zach Bridger has MPA for his ex-wife, Rebecca, who has been placed on life support after a violent assault. Zach has kept Rebecca on life support for 4 years to honor her parent's wishes. The attacker, Eban, gets an early release from prison and Kate Lennon, a brilliant state prosecutor, is determined to put him back behind bars. If Rebecca were to die, Eban could be retried on a new charge: murder. Zach is asked to make an impossible choice: keep her on life support or take her off and put Eban back in prison. We discussed that no one really thought about Rebecca. Zach was concerned about how he would be portrayed by the media, her father keeping her alive to punish Zach, and Eban boasting how his father's money got him out of prison early and now he can bet back to partying. It was unacceptable to keep Rebecca on life-support for so long.

Menu: "There are many football analogies and football references throughout the book. We put together a Tailgate Football Menu: Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Balsamic Fig Infused Burger Bites, Wings, Homemade Salsa & Chips plus Guacamole, Buffalo Chicken Dip, Pizza Pepper Poppers."

Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York; Page Ladies, Cleveland, Ohio; Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; CT Lit, Bridgeport, Connecticut; Kings Chapel Book Club  Arrington, Tennessee,
ALL MY RAGE by Sabaa Tahir (Penguin Teen, 3/22)

A contemporary novel about family and forgiveness, love and loss, in a sweeping story that crosses generations and continents.

Reading Between the Wines: "We all enjoyed the book and thought the author did a wonderful job of creating flawed and 'real' characters that we grew to care about."This was a great match for our club. Our discussion included immigrants' struggles to preserve their culture while trying to achieve the American Dream, the nature of generational trauma, the opioid crisis, and the role of faith in people's lives- so many things to discuss! We became invested in the characters of Noor and Sal and the traumatic events that they and their families, experienced impacted us, and provided a lot of jumping-off points for discussion. Watching their growth throughout the novel gave it a hopeful ending. We loved this book and were fully invested in these characters, and reading it was a very emotional journey. Recommended to clubs that enjoy books discussing contemporary themes, strong characters, and emotional reads.

Menu: We met at a local Indian/Pakistani restaurant to enjoy food discussed and eaten in the novel: chai tea, poori, halwa, Chicken Kashmiri, and paratha, among other dishes!

Page Ladies: “We went in expecting a contemporary story about friendship and forgiveness but what we got was so much more. Thank you, Sabaa Tahir, for sharing this devastating but absolutely beautiful story with us! This is a powerful story that affected each of us differently. It's one that will stay with us for a long time. Until The Fight Salahudin and Noor were more than friends; they were family. Now, Sal is struggling with keeping his family's motel afloat as his mother's health fails and his father loses himself to alcoholism. Meanwhile, Noor is working at her uncle's liquor store and hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him and Juniper forever. Sal and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst. This is an emotional and moving story about friendship, forgiveness, and heartache; it’s like taking a deep dive into a pool full of emotions. Grief, betrayal and forgiveness, loss, rage— you will feel every single one and more in this book. No one from our book club was able to finish this book with dry eyes. There are so many topics that were brought up and all were not easy to discuss: death, drugs, prejudice, and physical abuse. The writing is absolutely wonderful—Sabaa Tahir is a fabulous storyteller. She has a way with words that touches each of her readers.“

Get Woke Book Club “Members arrived with books displaying colorful post-it tabs, which visually reflected the common greeting, 'there is so much to think about in this novel!A group of mothers and grandmothers very much enjoyed the novel by a young adult author and its detailed and realistic picture of the struggles that immigrants face in relocating to the United States and of the family traditions and secrets that follow the immigrants to their new home. The culture and religious traditions of Pakistan were vividly described in an engaging storyline and beautiful prose. The main plot follows the lives of two Pakistani teens, who are struggling with school, personal tragedies, and love. They are surrounded by other well-drawn characters who add depth to the story. We discussed the many plot lines and themes: diversity, forgiveness, hope, family relationships, communication, secrecy, and loss. Tahir fills the novel with music, probably an excellent technique for adolescent readers—they can easily relate to the messages and emotions through familiar songs.  Noor uses songs and their lyrics to help cope with the conflicts in her life. 

Members shared selfies with short reflections:  “Music plays a role in helping us deal with life’s adversities.*  When is a relationship worth salvaging?  *Fortunately forgiveness does not have an expiration date. It waits and always hopes to be the last word. *Peeling through the complicated layers of life we can see, appreciate and begin to understand one another. * One of my favorite quotes ‘Great passions grow into monsters in the dark of the mind; but if you share them with loving friends they remain human, they can be endured.’ * Tahir effectively introduces sections with lines from  Elizabeth Bishop's poem, “One Art.  Many characters ‘lost’ things: family, money, businesses, dignity. A lesson we all may need is that losing isn’t always bad.: 'the art of losing’s not too hard to master’ *While keeping a secret is meant to protect someone at some point, keeping that secret might be doing more harm.”

CT Lit Book Club: "We’ve been exploring new genres, and we enjoyed ALL MY RAGE, a heartbreaking story that touches on a lot of sensitive topics which gave us plenty to discuss.ALL MY RAGE introduced us to Pakistani culture. This young adult story follows two Pakistani teens growing up in a small town in California and the grim realities of their American dream. Even through difficult times their cultural norms held them together as a family, even if not by blood, the young adult characters are each facing their own struggles—the death of a loved one, racism, alcoholism, drugs, abuse— they are navigating grief, failure, and forgiveness, and must ultimately lean on one another to make sense of the chaos they are facing. It was shocking to imagine our younger selves in situations like these and we spent time reflecting on how the kids navigated various situations. One that stood out is how Salahudin and Noor dealt with the drug bust, and how their relationship persevered. We also discussed how Salahudin came to terms with his abuse. We recommend ALL MY RAGE for clubs learning about other cultures, family drama, and historical fiction."

Kings Chapel: “Thank you for the chance to read this insightful novel. We had a fabulous discussion and I think it was good to read outside our usual genres. This is a heart-wrenching story about two teens from Pakistani families living in Juniper, California, dealing with tough circumstances, basically all by themselves. We don’t read much YA, It was out of the comfort zone for most of the ladies. but the tough topics represented in this story, such as grief, alcoholism, physical abuse, and racism, were easier to handle in the Young Adult format. Understanding why the characters made the choices they did was something we discussed quite a bit. As teens, they made decisions that were wrong but for the right reasons and it was interesting to get in the minds of these teens and try to understand why. As parents, it was hard to read at times, feeling so sad for these kids who have had such a hard life. But seeing them grow and learn from mistakes and stand up for others, gave the book a nice redemption quality in the end. Recommended for groups that enjoy YA coming of age and social justice." 



Reckless Readers, East Lyme, Connecticut, Chilly Thrillies, Tulsa, Oklahoma;
Lit Ladies Read, Melbourne, Florida; Thrillers by The Book / Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas;
Thrillers by The Book / Costa Mesa, California, CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut recommend:
THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur 7/22)
Paris Peralta is suspected of killing her celebrity husband, and her long-hidden past now threatens to destroy her future.

Reckless Readers: An excellent match! Everyone was excited to talk about the twists. We had much to discuss with THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK. Members were messaging before we met, needing to talk about the book as they were finishing it. It was like a month-long meeting, behind the scenes! Usually, if continuous discussion is prompted, the book was a hit. To say the book was twisty is an understatement. This book was twisty than a country back road! A few of us seasoned readers predicted the big twists, but most of us were surprised and shocked. Together, we all needed to unload about the horrendous mothering and terrible situations that Joey was put in throughout her childhood. All of the women in our group are mothers, which makes the book hit us so much harder. But the book wasn’t just about sexual abuse and trauma. There is a high-profile murder that could potentially unearth secrets that need to be kept hidden. The conversation got animated when we discussed Joelle's charge with murder, and there was much discussion about the relationship between Ruby and Joey. As mothers, we found it hard to imagine how Ruby could treat Joey the way she did and put her in such horrible situations. It was heartbreaking and disturbing ."

Chilly Thrillies: “Thank you for giving our group the gift of a 5-star read, a perfect match! We were engaged from start to finish and loved how much there was to discuss. It had the thrills of a book with great character development and storyline. We discussed narcissism and how it affects relationships, specifically parent-child, how the way you are raised affects your instincts and perspective of others, fight or flight and how we would react in certain scenarios in the book, sexual abuse, and its long-term effects, age gap relationships and how people can be evil, but the 'lesser evil.’ We debated which storyline in the dual timeline was more action-packed—something hard to accomplish. Normally, we’re more interested in one storyline, We each were able to predict one of the twists, but we're stumped on the others and loved that there was more than one twist revealed. I was so impressed, I read Hillier’s JAR OF HEARTS. Recommended for those who enjoy a page-turning thriller with complex characters that you root for."

Menu: We made a Filipino Chicken Adobo recipe similar to what Paris makes towards the end of the book (she used pork instead of chicken). We were inspired by her description of how learning to cook was so special when she was going through such a dark time.

Lit Ladies Read: “We enjoyed this twisty, thriller/mystery. and had a very lively discussion! We had so much to discuss. We enjoyed the storytelling, shifting between past and present. and different points of view. This really helped to fully develop the characters. Although some predicted twists, we were still engrossed in the story and wanted to see how things played out.
“Our discussion centered around the characters and their relationships. One of our favorites was that between Jimmy and Paris and the highlight of our discussion was the relationship between Paris/Joey and Ruby. We disagreed about how adult Paris should have handled Ruby and decided that we had to agree to disagree about our feelings towards Paris, but we all agreed that this book was a hit for our group. The mystery is multi-layered, with deep characters. Many members put other books by this author on their ‘to be read’ list."

Thrillers by the Book Club, DFW: "This was our best GalleyMatch, perfect for our group and for book clubs that like dark and twisted mysteries“We all loved how the book started with a very intriguing and captivating scene Joey’s background was very interesting and her relationship with her mother was so toxic. There are a few mysteries in the story. Besides trying to find out if Paris murdered her husband, we’re also trying to work out Paris’ past, how did she go from living with an abusive unstable mother, who is now in prison, to living a wealthy life married to a famous celebrity? I enjoyed Paris’ past the most I loved the intensity in the chapters that focused on Paris’ childhood and upbringing. Ruby, her mother, was such an intriguing and complex character—a terrible mother, self-centered and irresponsible, which caused Paris a lot of pain and uncertainty. While a few members predicted the twist, it didn’t take away from the enjoyment of this dark and suspenseful story.”

Thrillers by The Book, Costa Mesa: “This was an excellent pick for our club! The majority liked or loved this one! Some said it was one of their favorite picks of the year. Many of the members enjoyed the mystery of learning about the murderer in the end, and the alternating timelines of the female main character. There were a variety of opinions about who committed the crime.”

CT Lit Book Club: "This was the perfect match for us! We have been craving a thriller and this was on all of our anticipated release lists. We all enjoyed the book, and were so excited to have a chance to preview it! We discussed how jam-packed this book was with plot points. There was much to hold your attention and give you room to try and predict what would happen. We loved how creative Hillier is— there is one scene in specific that was so creative and will leave us remembering the book forever! (hint hint, ice skates). Half of us had read another book by Hillier, and we all agreed that we want to read more Hiller titles."


The Ladies of Autumnwood, Grand Isle, New York, Mom and I Book Club of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, r
ecommend:

THE MATCHMAKER'S GIFT BY Lynda Cohen Loigman (St. Martin's Press, 9/20/22)
 An intergenerational story about two women—a grandmother and granddaughter—who share the same incredible gift: the ability to identify soulmates

The Ladies of Autumnwood: We loved THE MATCHMAKER’S GIFT! Reading about Raskin’s pickles and the knish shops brought back wonderful memories of shopping at a pickle store in lower Manhattan barrels with barrels on the sidewalk and enjoying a great knish. These memories, among other topics, helped to round out our animated discussion last night. Members didn’t know much about ‘yentas’ or matchmakers and their role in creating Jewish courtship relations. We enjoyed learning about the bravery of the young girl, who beyond the fact that she was Jewish opened our eyes to the challenges of women, not unlike what some have to endure to break that glass ceiling today."
Menu: “We enjoyed Challah and red wine, and took home jars of pickles that I designed with a Raskin’s label.”

My Mom and I: “This pick was perfection. Not only did it match our love of magical realism but we agreed it’s the best book we’ve read this year. You found the perfect book for us!”
“We discussed magic, love, strong women, lovable characters, and the absolute beauty of the writing. We recommend this book to those who enjoy magical realism, foodie fiction, historical fiction, and women’s fiction. The author wrote a book that we treasure and we’re raving about it to everyone. This is a book that you feel like hugging at the end. We absolutely loved it. It’s a gem! “

Menu: "A smorgasbord! We had a blast capturing foods mentioned in the book lox and capers, cornichons— we decorated pickle jars with ‘The Pickle King’, as in the book. We had magical color-changing butterfly tea, as we wanted some magic to go with the story, and chocolate babka for dessert, like our beloved characters baked.

St. Louis Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri;  Mom and I Book Club, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania;  Pittsford Moms Book Club, Pittsford, New York, and Port Wine and Book Society Readers, Port Washington, Wisconsin recommend:
OTHER BIRDS by Sarah Addison Allen (St Martins, Press, 8/30/22)
A novel about a young woman who claims her deceased mother's apartment in an island town, where she meets she meets quirky and secretive neighbors.

St. Louis Women’s Book Club: "A great match! We felt like this was the perfect mix of themes, giving us questions and a variety of topics to discuss. Having an arc made us feel like ‘VIPs’ to the publishing process. This novel was cozy, nostalgic, and heartfelt! Allen’s characters help redefine the word ‘family’ in the most beautiful way. We discussed the definition of home and chosen family, food as a love language —and inspiration for potlucks for book club!! The setting—so realistic and magical, the imagery of the birds and the meaning. OTHER BIRDS takes you on a magical journey of youth, delicately balancing both beauty and sadness. We recommend this book to clubs who are fans of magical realism. It was fuzzy, cozy --the perfect happy read."

Menu: "We made amazing foods to match the book: cornmeal air-fried tomatoes, potato chips on Hawaiian rolls, Mac & cheese, cornbread, Palomas, and marshmallow popcorn."

My Mom and I: "Thank you for a rare opportunity to preview our favorite author’s new book! Sarah Addison Allen's first novel GARDEN SPELLS introduced us to our favorite genre, magical realism. I saved the book for the perfect moment and then tore into it. After waiting eight years for her new book I knew I’d read it too quickly and, that’s what happened We are Italian and loved the ‘found family’ theme and 'food is love' philosophy running through the novel. We enjoyed the foodie talk, animals, ghosts, and magical elements. All characters and storylines were interesting and mysterious; sometimes beautiful, but sometimes ugly but always interesting. Several big reveals had us slack-jawed!

While OTHER BIRDS is a little sadder and darker than her previous works, the magic and the love and the beauty left the reader with a love of the characters and a belief that as the characters live beyond 'the end' of the book all turned out well for them. And you will want that because you will be left loving nearly everything about OTHER BIRDS! We recommend this to those who like magical realism and foodie fiction."

Menu: "Cornmeal marshmallow dishes based on a character: Fluffernutters (marshmallow whip and peanut butter sandwiches), tamale pie stuffed peppers, cornmeal sugar cookies, and marshmallow-flavored lip balm as a keepsake."

Pittsford Moms: "We had so much fun with OTHER BIRDS! We loved this found family story and all the special characters! The novel was a good fit for our club. We try to switch up genres/authors and most members like books with some magic realism elements. We felt it was an easy read and generally flew through the book - Thanks! kept our attention. We loved the story of found family, the characters, and their backgrounds. Books with paranormal/magic realism can be hit or miss for most members but they worked well with this story and added background and historical context for many of the characters. We had a great discussion about the twists and the characters' diverse backgrounds— we would have liked a little more depth to some characters that had very traumatic backgrounds. We recommend OTHER BIRDS to groups that enjoy a touch of magic realism and found family stories!”

Menu: "S’mores bars— the story takes place on Marsh Island and all restaurants in town have something marshmallow on their menu.” 

Port Wine and Book Society: "A great match for our club! We recommend this enchanting story written from the heart, with interesting characters and subplots.”Zoey was such a delightful, open and honest young character— we all adored her. We liked how the story unfolded by hearing different characters' viewpoints in each chapter. The Dellawisps added fun and interest, some of us thought they may have stolen Charlotte's money.  We loved the descriptions of Mallow Island - we live in a small tourist town in Wisconsin and really identified with that. The highlighted passages in Lizbeth’s copy of Sweet Mallow were ironic because she didn't live her life according to any of them - she was so stuck in the past it literally killed her. We enjoyed a unique story, quirky characters, and the theme of food as friendship/love."

Menu: “The detail around food was great! We  made several dishes with corn or cornmeal to celebrate it: Polenta and shrimp, fresh corn salad, corn dip and corn chips, and popcorn.”

CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut; Page Ladies, Cleveland, Ohio; KU Endowment, Lawrence, Kansas; and Girls Clubhouse, Auburn, California recommend
MIRROR GIRLS by Kelly McWilliams (Little Brown, 2/22)
A gothic horror novel about twin sisters separated across the color line after the murder of their parents (YA historical fiction/  magical realism/fantasy).

CT Lit: “MIRROR GIRLS was a great discussion starter and the perfect book to read with a group. It took us out of our comfort zone and was eye-opening, a reminder that segregation is not so far in the past. We are transported to the South—and blatant racism —which as a group of white women living in Connecticut, we don't have experience with. We follow twin sisters Magnolia and Charlie, separated at birth—one raised as Black in New York City and one raised as white-passing in the Deep South— who learn the secret everyone has kept from them. The novel portrayed how indoctrinated people were, and in some cases ready to push racism aside when it would benefit them. We discussed how Charlie's view on life differs after growing up in the more liberal Harlem and compared it to growing up in Connecticut and traveling in different areas in the United States. We recommend this book to clubs that enjoy Brit Bennett's THE VANISHING HALF.”

Page Ladies: "We all enjoyed this historical fiction with a paranormal twist that is both heartbreaking and beautiful. The book offered many different topics, generating a nice discussion: the time period, the girls as individuals, their different upbringings and when they came together, the decision to separate them and not tell them about each other, and much more! A wonderful story about twin girls Charlie and Magnolia who were separated after their parents died for love across the color line and have no idea the other exists. Magnolia. raised in Georgia, is the white heiress to a cotton plantation. Charlie, raised in Harlem with her Nana, is a young Black organizer. When Charlie's grandmother falls ill, they return to Georgia. When the girls do meet Magnolia discovers her reflection has disappeared. They couldn’t be more different, but they will need each other to put the hauntings of the past to rest, break the mirrors’ deadly curse, and discover the meaning of sisterhood in a racially divided land. Seeing the girls come together to create that sisterly bond was wonderful, as is the writing, and pacing. The curse and the ghosts added an interesting twist to the story.”

Girls Clubhouse: "We all enjoyed MIRROR GIRLS and we tried to capture the supernatural aspect of the book with mirror images” Charlie and Magnolia both born in the South but separated at birth live separate lives but face the double threat of racism and ghosts. We discussed how ‘Colored Town ‘is equally foreign to both girls, despite being born there; contrasting with where they were each raised. Magnolia knows the rules of the general area, while Charlie knows how things are done —how stories are told, some traditions. The concept of the veil as the place between this world and the afterlife was used by the author also as the place between the white world and the colored world, which made this gothic story much more intriguing than if it had been singularly used. This forces both girls to examine who they are and what they are willing to live with. Members enjoy supernatural books, and the idea of ghosts to help guide the characters was appealing. We found it to be a ‘light’ supernatural read. We recommend to clubs who enjoy gothic young adult novels."

KU Endowment: "Everyone loved the book. Some members were pleasantly surprised by the way supernatural elements were combined with social commentary and realistic events. The author was able to shine a light on the atrocities of slavery and segregation without being heavy-handed and shows us a playbook for fighting back through the strong and determined sisters, Charlie and Magnolia. The past can haunt us but that doesn't mean it has to control us, and love will conquer hate. One member discussed the book with her 86-year-old mother, who shared memories of her experiences during segregation. We all felt hopeful and inspired by the book and loved the characters. We talked about what it would be like not to know your origins and what would inspire someone to fight against things they know are wrong when it could cost them everything. We recommend to those that enjoy strong characters, historical fiction, and being inspired."

The Revivals Book Club The Revivals, Germantown, Wisconsin; Famished for Fiction, Plano, Texas; Zoom-Chilly Thrillies, Tulsa, Oklahoma
THE CICADA TREE by Robert Gwaltney, Jr.
A novel about an 11-year-old, whisky-drinking, piano prodigy who encounters a wealthy family of supernatural beauty.

The Revivals: “Have we missed out on a genre of remarkable books or were we gifted a gem in a genre we might not have read? The debut novel THE CICADA TREE soared to the top of the 2022 best reads. We dare you not to highlight dozens of richly written sentences; our galleys are filled with colorful post-it notes. The discussion questions gave deeper insight into the themes and allegories we hadn’t considered. We agreed that the book fit into genres of southern gothic, magical realism, and coming-of-age. We explored biblical allegories: good and evil, Jesus, John the Baptist, Cain and Abel, plague, water, and fire. Once every 13 years, the cicadas emerge in tremendous numbers to mate and disrupt human life and comfort; some believe they hold our secrets. Gwaltney has a gift for bringing all together in an unforgettable book appealing to multiple genres and readers. We discussed how music and the song of the Cicadas featured prominently, and the writing allowed us to hear the music as the book’s climax approached. There are themes of coming-of-age, transformation, and rebirth. Gwaltney poetically foreshadows the storyline early as the story’s protagonist, a typical tween experiencing growing pains, insecurity, and self-recrimination sheds her childhood as a cicada does. Triumphing over evil, the novel reaches an angelic and lyrical end. There are as many ways to love this book as there are to interpret it–we dare you to read it! We all loved this novel.”

Menu: Iced Tea, Autumn Apple & Feta Salad, Watermelon Salad, Feta, Mint; Skillet Cheddar Cornbread, Southern Pecan Praline Cookies, Coffee on a garden patio.

Zoom-Chilly Thrillies: We had a great time reading and discussing THE CICADA TREE, a wonderful match that pushed us out of our comfort zone, with its unique blend of genres— historical fiction, fantasy, and mystery. This was a unique story! We agreed it was unpredictable and gave much to discuss. Some words members shared to describe the writing style and story were: Gothic, descriptive, imaginative, twisted, mystical, humorous, innocent, and unpredictable! We were excited about the discussion and most finished it quickly-after the halfway point, unable to put it down.

"We discussed symbolism, class differences, racism, religion, southern culture, character motivations, and family relationships. and how the main character was looking up to a family she aspired to. We discussed our childhood oddities, raised by the mention of the character's liking the feel of pain. We enjoyed that it was told through a child's lens, while dark but the child's perspective ensured curiosity and humor even when horrifying things are happeningThe writing is creative and descriptive and made us think about things such as how you hear music in a new light. The ending was haunting and beautiful and there were many shocked reactions!

"We also discussed the movies or books we thought possibly influenced the author, including REBECCA, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and MEAN GIRLS., We are eager to read Gwaltney's next novel!"

Menu: “Iced tea was sipped!"

Famished for Fiction: “A wonderful opportunity to read a complex story with a bit of mystery and unexpected twists and turns. Our group is diverse, and open to new and different genres, and appreciated the opportunity to discover this book. We discussed the focus of music and its impact on the progression of the story. Music is a major theme throughout the piece, whether it is the music Mr. Mayfield had composed for his wife or the musical virtuosity of the Mayfield children. We explored the cicada's presence: cicadas are seasonal and burrow in the ground, so they are equivalent to all of the secrets that are buzzing around the town of Providence, connecting the Mayfields to Etta Mae and Analeise, and the link between their molting and the growing pains the main characters are experiencing.”

Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado; Books and Brew, Allendale, Michigan;  Carrollton Book Buddies, Carrollton, Texas;
BluStocking Literacy Society, West Allis, Wisconsin

THE CODEBREAKER'S SECRET by Sara Ackerman (Mira, 8/22)
A brilliant female code breaker and a pilot on a top-secret mission come together in this dazzling story of love and intrigue set during America’s darkest hour.

Ranch Readers: Our book club enjoyed this book as we read a non-fiction WWII book about codebreakers and many have traveled to Hawaii so both the theme and setting are familiar. The storyline was realistic and we enjoyed the dual timelines with relevance at the end of the book when the characters are planting a memorial garden on the plantation. We discussed our mother's vital roles during the war, such as working in a war plant, how women were disregarded and treated as second-class citizens, and the situations where the same treatment happens today.We discussed our Hawaiian travels: topography, lava fields, ocean conditions, and coffee plantations. Those that have visited the Mauna Kea Hotel described it. Recommended for book clubs that enjoy historical fiction and WWII stories.”

Menu: “Banana chocolate chip cake/ banana pudding topping, tropical fruit salad, Huli-huli Chicken.”

BluStocking Literacy Society: “
A perfect match! We enjoy historical fiction/mystery that pulls us in and we all anticipated the discussion. We discussed the timeline and connections between the two eras, and the uncertainty that women codebreakers felt reflected by Lu as she struggles to establish herself as a journalist. Isabel walked a line between expressing her intelligence and thoughts and second-guessing herself and stepping back. It was fascinating to consider women in a secret intelligence role and the obstacles they had to overcome.”
Menu: "
Wacky Cake, a classic chocolate cake born of necessity for WWII rationing.”

Carrollton Book Buddies: “A brilliant female codebreaker. An ‘unbreakable’ Japanese naval code. A pilot on a top-secret mission that could change the course of WWII. My book club loved THE CODEBREAKER'S SECRET! The dual timeline novel is set in Hawaii. We enjoyed discussing the amazing roles women played in World War ll. While most of us decided we'd have been secretaries, one member thought the radar plotter sounded like a fit. We appreciated that there were those that worked as mechanics, pilots ferrying planes, medics, and of course, the codebreakers! The Dungeon where the codebreakers worked and the men in charge were a hot topic-the smoke, the drinking, the snobbery, all appalling. Just the thought of approaching the stairs and entering drew lots of remarks! We read the author's explanation of the difference between codes and ciphers and concluded the codebreakers were brilliant! We discussed survivor's guilt, the way Germans, Italians, and the Japanese were treated here in the states, and men in power and misuse of that power. We appreciated the way the threads were all tied up by the ending, though a surprise. The stunning descriptions of the Mauna Kea Hotel and the surroundings have us all wishing for a trip to Hawaii. We appreciated the brilliant, unique roles of women in war."

Menu: "We met at tropical Tommy Bahamas restaurant for a chopped salad with shrimp, coconut shrimp, and Mahi Mahi Tacos. Tropical beverages included. Cloud Coconut Martinis and Jalapeno Margaritas."

Books and Brew: "The story takes place in 1943 and 1965. It's 1943, and Isabel Cooper, who has lost her older brother in the attack on Pearl Harbor, is working as a code breaker, solving Japanese naval codes. Isabel seizes an opportunity to solve codes in Hawaii to locate her brother’s friends and learn about his life. In Hawaii, she stumbles into a life-changing mystery. In 1965, aspiring journalist Lu Freitas is traveling to the Mauna Kea Hotel for its grand opening, when she befriends a famous woman. When her new friend disappears, Lu investigates and soon uncovers a missing link to the past. We discussed women in history, World War II, the relationship between the main character to her friend and her brother's friends, her internal struggle, and women's roles during the war. I was so grateful to have received this book early for my book club! I was so immersed in the characters and their story, I couldn't put it down! Five stars!"

Reading is My Cardio, Smithfield, Rhode Island;  Bookish Ladies, Coto De Caza, California; Next Chapter, Leesburg, Virginia
SIX DAYS IN ROME by Francesca Giacco (Grand Central, 5/22)
A young artist travels to Rome to heal a broken heart, where she confronts loneliness and intimacy, rage and desire in this debut novel.

Reading is My Cardio: "We adored this lyrical and atmospheric debut! It was refreshing to read a book with realistically flawed characters and where not everything gets tied up in a perfect bow. This character-driven story explores relationships in so many forms - family, romantic, and with one's self - and the writing is just beautiful. Truly a perfect book for summer, transporting us to Rome for a captivating six days. We discussed how this isn't a book with a lot of plot and yet it kept us interested throughout. We loved the writing and many of us highlighted passages that we shared and discussed, and the group also touched on whether we'd be able to travel solo as the main character did. Another subject that came up was how the narrative is almost stream of consciousness which some of our group enjoyed more than others. We recommend this book to clubs that enjoy being transported to another place and appreciate character-driven books about self-discovery."

Menu: "Italian-themed cocktail party featuring charcuterie, Aperol Spritzes, and a gelato bar for dessert."

Bookish Ladies: "SIX DAYS IN ROME was beautifully written We enjoyed the food and descriptions around Rome! We loved how the book was written in terms of description and character development. It was a lighter, summer read. We felt l the character had a lot to work out but she never quite figured out what it was so there were a lot of questions left up for interpretation."

Menu: Italian rosé, homemade flatbreads with Italian pesto, mozzarella, fresh basil, aged balsamic, and roasted tomatoes.

Next Chapter: “Everyone agreed that Francesca Giacco's writing was beautiful,—and it was fun to read her book looking for food and drink that members can make and enjoy at book club! Emilia heads off on a six-day trip to Rome—it was supposed to be a romantic trip with her then-boyfriend Michael. but that’s not possible as he is married! With six days in Rome, Emilia will have time to reflect on why it wouldn’t work, why she deserves better, and time to enjoy the food and wine on her trip. We discussed what we thought happened to Michael: we had differing opinions to whether he had died or was with someone else or married. During her trip, she reflects on her relationship with her father and brother, and has lots of yummy food and drink throughout. We were happy that she met someone new and Emilia Is able to focus on herself and her art. Her six days in Rome weren’t what she had planned when she booked the trip, but sometimes better things come out of bad situations. Ah, the magic of Italy! One of our members took her book to Rome and shared photos."

Menu: “We enjoyed Aperol Spritz cocktails, a charcuterie board, tiramisu, and wine-soaked grapes”.

Peoria Book Rack, Illinois, Thrillers by the Book Orange County, California, Novels N Latte, Hudson Valley, New York
THE GOOD SISTER by Sally Hepworth (St. Martins Press, 2021)
A psychological thriller about the lies that bind two sisters.

Peoria Book Rack: “We agreed it was fast-paced and a quick read. The story keeps you guessing as you try to figure out the family dynamic between sisters Rose and Fern. the journals, their relationship with the mom, the twists! We also discussed Hepworth's versatility as an author. She has a solid list of backlist books that many of us are excited to check out! We recommend for book clubs that enjoy family thrillers.”

Thrillers by the Book: “Everyone loves Sally Hepworth, and this was a favorite! A likable main character and a fun story. We talked about representation in books, and the importance of character-driven books, and how her writing style is relatable and easy to read."

Novels N Latte: “Perfect for our club. We love good twisted family dynamics, and this sister story gave us a lot to discuss, including Fern's autism spectrum and which was actually the good sister.”

Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey, East Lawrence High School Book Club of Trinity, Alabama, Reckless Readers of  Eastford, Connecticut, and North Wales Area Library Book Club, Pennsylvania
DARK AND SHALLOW LIES by Ginny Myers Sain (Penguin Teen, 2021)

A supernatural thriller about a teen girl who disappears from her small town deep in the bayou, where magic festers beneath the surface of the swamp.

Reckless Readers: The story hooked the teens— they enjoyed the love story and the witchy aspect, and our adult readers also loved the book. We included teen daughters who wanted to join, and teachers and librarians in the group who wanted to preview it before ordering for their locations. A few of them have not read YA books, so it was a nice and unexpected change for them. We liked the Southern setting, and how the author submerged us in Bayou. From gigantic gators ( Willie Nelson) to psychic abilities, shapeshifter, and Aurora readers, this book is a full experience. The end was shocking and fit the story. We recommend this book for those that enjoy a hint of magic within a southern setting.

Menu: "Southern delights mentioned in the book: Honey’s Pralines, Willie Nelson’s Gator Piss cocktail—with Midori, lime juice, rum, sweet & sour mix, and seltzer—Cajun wings and shrimp dip."

North Wales Area Library: “Our group had one of the best discussions we can remember!”This was an excellent selection and discussion. The book brought the Louisiana bayou setting to life. One member was raised in the area and she especially thought the setting description was spot on. The group wondered why the word ‘shallow’ was included in the title: The lies did not seem shallow. We debated the killer, books were pulled out and theories shared. The hurricane preparation made for interesting reading. We discussed why an outside investigation might not have happened. All said they would read another Sain book and looked forward to the next book in the series. We hope to have our adult group discuss DARK AND SHALLOW LIES with our teen book club! Our group rates books with 1-5 stars. The lowest rating in the group was 4.5! We recommend this book to clubs who enjoy reading outside of the box.”

ELHS Book Club: “Thank you for providing yet another wonderful book for our students! We discussed the setting bayous, swamps, cypress trees, alligators, shrimp boats and houses on stilts. The author did an excellent job painting a picture for the reader. We also discussed mental illness which is woven into the plot through a couple of characters via subtle behaviors and downright craziness.

Menu: jambalaya, gumbo, and pistolette rolls.

Book Club Girls: “Don't be turned away by the YA label, this book is for all ages. It was completely off our radar as far as genre, and many readers gave it five stars, and couldn't believe it was a debut novel. One member stayed up until 5 am to finish— she just had to know the end! The writing was fantastic. We discussed the book is marketed as a YA title, however, NONE of us are near that demographic We felt the characters could be aged up to the 30s and 40' and still make sense—they were just as vital to the storyline as the plot. We felt the novel touched on mystery and supernatural themes but also the deep-rooted impact of emotional trauma that shapes us. We discussed how keeping secrets buried for so many years by everyone caused so much heartache and pain. If truths were told from the start, what would the lives of the children have been like?? A great evening with lots of thoughtful discussions and fun had by all."

Menu: Hurricane Punch, crawfish, gator bites, cajun fried catfish, and cornbread.

Lit Ladies Read Book Club of Melbourne, Florida and Thrillers by the Book of Costa Mesa, California
THE YOUNGER WIFE by Sally Hepworth, (St. Martins Press, 4/22)
A new novel of domestic suspense that delves into a tangled web of family secrets, and lies.

Lit Ladies Read: "We loved this book and had a great discussion, which centered on the theme of perceived reality. We had a great debate about whether Stephen was actually an abuser or just misunderstood. The epilogue raised more questions than provided answers. Our group had varying opinions depending on which character’s perspective we were discussing. We all enjoyed the ambiguous nature of the ending and agreed it was very clever. It was a lot of fun to discuss our own opinions and debate what we believed to be the truth. Some of our members took the book at face value, while others questioned what we had read and what we believed to be the truth.

"We liked how the story was told with alternating points of view and followed along easily when the perspective changed. The book dealt with some serious topics but was written in a very light-hearted way that made it a quick enjoyable read."

Menu: “Heather would have been proud! We met at a country club,  in true Aston fashion. We had Mahi tacos and quesadillas in honor of Rachel and Darcy’s first date.”

Thrillers by the Book: "A perfect match! We’re big fans of Sally Hepworth! We loved the intriguing vibe the author created by not revealing right away who was involved in the accident from the opening scene. The story is based on many factors, dysfunctional family dynamics, abusive relationships, addiction, mental issues, and so many juicy secrets. We enjoyed Sally’s writing style and the characters she created. Sally has a way of making her characters very relatable and down to earth. We also enjoyed how she connected a piece of her real-life to one of the scenes in this book. Some of the secondary characters seemed to love Stephen but Heather and his kids suspect him of being abusive. The ending left us wondering if Stephen was in actual fact abusive. The women around him suffered a lot of 'accidents' but it’s never clear if they were really accidents or intentional. We recommend this title for book clubs that enjoy a family drama with a hint of suspense. Thank you for spoiling our book club!"

Page Ladies of Cleveland, Ohio, Bibliobibuli of San Diego, California, and HAH Reading Club of Kaukama, Wisconsin
THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY by Sherri L. Smith ((Penguin Young Readers, 2//20)
From the award-winning author of Flygirl comes this powerful WWII romance between two Japanese teens caught in the cogs of an unwinnable war.

Page Ladies: “Thank you for sharing this amazing, compelling, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking story about life in Japan during World War II. We were surprised by how much research went into it, and we are always interested in books that can teach us something. The story switches between Taro and Hana's perspectives so we see two sides of the story and what each experienced. Could we imagine being Hana, having to take care of the kamikaze pilots and then say goodbye to them, knowing that they will more than likely die? We talked about Hana and the pilot—how they felt at the beginning of the book versus the end— as well as the choices that surprised us and whether we would do the same. This was an emotional read and the pace moves well with the story."

Bibliobibuli: “Our members enjoyed THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY, and our chat with author Sherri Smith was especially enjoyable. The novel is a fictionalized account of young kamikaze pilots and the teen-aged girls who provided platonic camaraderie and emotional support to them during World War II. Smith employs lyrical prose to introduce the reader to war-torn Japan and the youth culture that rallied around Emperor Hirohito. We appreciated learning more about the Japanese perspective on World War II. Hana’s disparaging remarks about Americans made us realize that we had never heard from the youth of Japan about the events of the war."

HAH Reading Club: We really enjoyed THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY and its different perspectives on World War II We discussed how the novel reminded us of the current situation with the Ukrainian and Russian war. The author talked about remembering so it doesn’t happen again, and we discussed how emotional we felt about the abuse, propaganda, and conditioning that happened to prepare the civilians and boys for the war.
We compared how the reading of trauma and the emotional impact, ranges based on the age of the reader. We discussed the comparison of how being ready for death in a moment you can’t control, such as a reaction to an air raid, and the premeditated preparation of the pilots to body-crash was handled and how the author gave us both views. We also found how the invasion was perceived after all the preparations made to fight to the death as the expectation from the government. We recommend this novel to clubs looking for an emotional experience with a dive into other cultures."

Boys Book Club, San Jose California; Between the Lines, Woolwich, New Jersey Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York
GENEVA by Richard C. Armitage (Pegasus 10/23)
A bold and unpredictable debut thriller set in Switzerland's biotech world (and deceptive beauty), by acclaimed actor Richard Armitage.  

 Boys Book Club:“ We enjoyed GENEVA, a page-turner! We found ourselves engrossed in a discussion about the complex themes in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss, global intrigue, and the chilling notion of brain implants that seem all too real. These topics and the ethical dilemmas presented in the book sparked an interesting conversation. We enjoyed the characters and the author’s vivid descriptions. Those who listened to the audio version narrated by Richard Armitage, Nicola Walker, and Jane Perry highly recommended it.

Menu: “Cheese fondue, Toblerone chocolate. Two beers: Forgotten Thoughts and Stranger than Fiction"

Reading Between the Wines: “GENEVA was a great match for our book club. We love reading mysteries and thrillers and this fast-paced thriller set in Geneva, Switzerland in the world of biotech research, had some great red herrings to keep us interested and intrigued. We discussed the biotech world and the ethics surrounding new discoveries. We also discussed the dynamics between Sarah and her husband Daniel, and how her career as a  Nobel prize-winning scientist affected their relationship We enjoyed discussing GENEVA!. Lots of red herrings and a great twist kept the conversation going!"

Menu: "Chocolate fondue with fruit and cookies, cheese fondue and bread, mulled wine, and Toblerone!"

Between the Lines: "We were wowed that GENEVA is Richard’s debut novel—the last 20 minutes of the book had us on the edge of our seats!”-“We all enjoyed, this fast-paced thriller read. GENEVA dives into Alzheimer’s, family dynamics, and the biotech industry. It was a roller coaster ride. We have family members with medical illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and we’re interested in the biotech part of the story. We loved the ending and couldn’t get over how it unfolded—it was our favorite part. We recommend GENEVA to book clubs that enjoy a heart-pumping, edge-of-your-seat ending.  Richard Armitage narrates the male POV, so get the audio and give your ears a true treat."

Menu: "Fondue with Swiss cheese, as book is set in Switzerland"

Romancing the Hearthstone, Rogers Arkansas; Happy Bookers, Linn, Missouri; Legacy Literary Ladies, The Villages, Florida   
STREET CORNER DREAMS by Florence Reiss Kraut (SheWrites, 11/23)
A  novel about  Golda, who comes to America yearning for independence before World War I, but tosses aside her dreams of freedom and marries her widowed brother-in-law after her sister dies giving birth to their son.

Romancing the Hearthstone: “We all gave STREET CORNER DREAMS five stars!. We adored it. Most members couldn’t put it down and read it in two days. They loved the writing style and commented that the pacing was great for historical fiction— a page-turner.  This was a wonderful story told from the perspective of an immigrant. The novel made us feel so grateful for what we have. The discussion centered on how weak Ben was and how strong Goulda and Sarah were.  Members were invested in this story and wanted a sequel to know what happens to Morty.”

Legacy Literary Ladies: “Most members enjoyed STREET CORNER DREAMS from the onset, but ended up loving the novel. As the characters developed, the story was very believable, andhated to see it end, with engaging twists and turns. It is an emotionally charged story that reads easily and is well crafted.  A vivid portrayal of the immigrant experience with believable, vivid.  characters and an engaging story that we all felt a connection to.
Menu: Potato latkes

Happy Bookers: "STREET CORNER DREAMS was full of historical events, family drama with struggles, perseverance, and romance. The surprises and twists in various storylines kept our discussion going!"-The characters will long live in our reading memories: Golda, Ben, Morty, Anna, Sylvia, Surah, and Esther. The difficulties and struggles of these immigrants as they faced the events of the Great Depression, the Spanish Flu, and World War 1 provide an influx of social history surrounding their lives. It was intriguing to read the family mysteries surrounding those characters, who are working toward their dreams, as they work through their difficulties and challenges. Which loves will prevail amidst the pressures of war, the gangs, and economic factors of the day as they work to make their way in their new land?

We didn’t know much about the gangs of New York. Families and businesses faced many obstacles and were targeted by gang threats of paying protection fees to survive. A main discussion topic was comparing our lives and advantages to the hardships of our nation's newcomers. We wondered if we could withstand the modes of travel, lack of communication and job opportunities, and health crises with limited care with the same fortitude." 

Menu: "Anna’s uncle Tony’s deli-inspired bread, salami, and Swiss cheese. We meet on the opening night of the Osage View restaurant overlooking beautiful rolling hills that many immigrants years ago came upon in settling in our county.


Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado; Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; Revivals, Germantown, Wisconsin; Lit Happens, California, Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Missouri

THE FARMER'S WIFE by Helen Rebanks (Harper Horizon,  9/23)
An honest portrait of rural life and an authentic exploration of both the hard work and reward of keeping a home and raising a family.

Ranch Readers: We loved this memoir and felt it was rare in that it was raw and practical. It made us remember our own trials and tribulations of courtship, career choice, having babies, and the hard work of being a mother and supportive wife. Although Helen experienced many changes in lifestyle she ultimately realized being a wife and mother were the most important aspects of her life and those choices made her the happiest. We enjoyed the recipes she so effortlessly executed, and we felt almost like a family member, getting to know the various individuals she wrote about so intimately and from her heart. A few members spoke about the long hours of work and almost constant attention needed to maintain farm animals that farming involves, and how every member of the family has to contribute to maintaining a farm, the loneliness they often experienced by living isolated on a large farm as children, but also the joys of sharing the rebirth every spring of the farm animals' young and planting season being completed. They also remembered the joys of harvest season when other farmers would gather to help each other and then celebrate by sharing a large meal together. We all enjoyed reading about how food and cooking were important to the author and spoke about the recipes we wanted to try as we discussed the book. We also discussed how family farms contribute the most to preserving sustainable practices and how important it is to support farmers, shepherds, and ranchers. The memoir encouraged us to think about writing our own life stories and including favorite family recipes. Recommended for those who enjoy reading honest memoirs, and being a wife and mother.” 

Menu: “Helen's Lentil and Tomato Soup before our discussion--it was so delicious!—and her Lemon Drizzle Cake for dessert”

The Revivals: "We enjoy cooking and this book presented a wonderful opportunity for us to share our kitchen prowess by each of us preparing one or two dishes that came together as a shared dinner; family dinners being a priority for Helen. We discussed Helen's unique art and her enjoyment of creating a comfortable family home. We agree with Helen and share her enjoyment of home-cooked meals and family mealtimes. We discussed our own comfort levels with home births and marveled at Helen's thoughtfully made choices with her second child. We cheered for Helen when she perfectly described the many hats a stay-at-home mom wears and the feelings accompanying that life path. While possibly not given enough attention in the book, Helen writes with personal insight on the food choices we all should be paying more attention to and the farmers who provide our life-sustaining food. In clear and concise few short paragraphs, Helen has enlightened us on the importance of sustainable farming systems that encourage ‘good food from good farming.’. We recommend this book to those who enjoy coming of age, home cooking, memoirs, and women's studies. "

Menu: “Members chose and recreated recipes from the book: Smoked salmon rectangles, hummus and pita chips, frittata, field mushroom soup and croutons, easy chocolate cake, and panettone(bread and butter) pudding.”

Get Woke: "A magical evening! In honor of THE FARMER’S WIFE, and farm-to-table eating, we partnered with the Pleasant Grove Pizza- where host Emily creates unique pizzas with local and seasonal food, which enriched our discussion and palate. Rebanks reflects on her life revealing family struggles and relationships, the challenges of motherhood, and the stigma of honoring ‘small domestic things’ She champions the importance of the daily grind of domesticity. Her thoughts are enhanced by sketches, and family recipes are sprinkled throughout the book.

"Her ideas about the benefits of a simple life, and enthusiasm for farm life, and the prevailing attitudes regarding women’s roles struck a chord with our group. Several members grew up in farming families, and they recalled the wives’ drudgery, cooking, and cleaning as never-ending activities, feeling trapped in the house, constantly preparing field lunch boxes.
Rebanks feels the false perceptions and frustrations that can stereotype ‘life within the home”. The importance of mundane, day-to-day events is often overlooked. The prevalent, cultural dogma strongly suggests that 'life outside the home is more important than the one inside the home.' She realizes that there are all kinds of 'mums' that 'carry our own stuff on our shoulders,' and unless we have walked in each other’s shoes, we should not judge.
Rebanks focuses on food, including her journey as a cook and inherited family recipes. She encourages readers to shop locally and seasonally. In southern Minnesota, we enjoy local meat and produce, and this theme resonated. We designed our meeting to honor the local food movement. Our hosts Emily and Bill partner with local farmers, winemakers, and brewers. Their farm consists of 55 acres of prairie grassland and oak trees, home to animals, a wood-fired pizza oven, a barn, and a large garden. We celebrated THE FARMER’S WIFE with Emily’s unique food creations— and she joined our discussion."
Menu: "Smoked Salmon Crostini (inspired by Rebanks’ recipe) Piggy in the Orchard Pizza, Apple Pie Pizza, local wine."
Lit Happens:
Menu: Spaghetti Carbonara with Mushrooms, and Dauphinoise Potatoes. Scrambled Eggs and Homemade Fries, Maple-Sweetened Overnight Oat, Hot Chocolate Flight. Lemon Meringue Pie.

Chapter by Chapter Book Club of Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Happy Bookers of Linn, Missouri; Words!Women!Wine! of Brookfield, Wisconsin

THE HIDDEN LIFE OF ASTER KELLY by Katherine A. Sherbrooke  (Pegasus Books, 4/23)
The story of a runway model in 1940s Hollywood who makes a split-second decision intended to protect those she loves but triggers a cascade of secrets that threatens to upend her daughter’s life decades later.

Chapter by Chapter: "THE HIDDEN LIFE OF ASTER KELLY was a great match. We really enjoy historical fiction and several members commented that they enjoyed the glimpse behind the scenes of the fashion industry in Hollywood. We were interested in how their lifestyle judged those involved in fashion and industry. Several members had read THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO and talked about the similarities between the two books. Told from the perspective of mother/daughter protagonists in dual time periods on opposite coasts, this one kept me turning the page late into the night. I didn’t expect to be so absorbed, but I highly recommend this read!"

Menu: "As a nod to Benny’s meatballs, our potluck included meatball pizza. Our drink was Caramel Apple Cider—a nod to the Berkshires, which was referenced in the novel."

Happy Bookers:  “From the fabulous cover to the title to the main character’s name, we were intrigued! When we learned that the book was inspired by the author‘s mother, it added even more interest. THE HIDDEN LIFE OF ASTER KELLY is a story of secrets, of decisions, and the consequences of those decisions, with surprising twists and entanglements that kept us reading to learn how the mother’s choices impact her daughter’s life. Learning about Hollywood particularly the fashion, and glamour of 1940s Hollywood to 1970s Broadway was fascinating. Our conversation focused on the difficulty of life-altering decisions and their outcomes. We discussed the bonds of the chosen family and the strength of love and loyalty. An interesting point was how the story involved a coming of age for both Aster and her daughter Lissy. Choices involving Lissy’s Broadway and Noah’s music careers gave us much to talk about. And no one saw a big twist coming! I have since listened to several of the author's interviews and love her background story for this book. We look forward to reading more of her books. We recommend this novel to those who enjoy historical fiction about Hollywood, Broadway, and family drama."

Menu: “Our versions of Benny’s homemade meatballs and soup. When served, we commented on how this was the ultimate comfort food for this story.”

Words!Women!Wine!: "We all enjoyed this book and the strong female protagonists and both timeline plots. We had a great discussion with many viewpoints. We discussed  Sam and Aster's relationship. Both characters seemed to have conflicting feelings, although the relationship had some redeeming qualities One member noted that Aster had made so many fabrications about her life, it was hard to keep her secrets straight. It was as if the fabrications were woven into her background, much like her early desire to be a fashion designer. Many of us liked that Aster moved from clothing to sculpture and felt that was a well-developed plot line.

We all agreed that the love story of Fernando and Benedict/Christopher was the best in the book. We discussed it must have been for gay celebrities in the 40s & 50s and even still today. We had not heard of the term ' avender scare’ which led us into a discussion of discrimination and profits and politics. It was interesting to us that both females fixated on their one true love - even though initially they both let them go. Many of us thought it was predictable that Christopher/Benny would die after the lead-up to that scene, but we were all shocked in the end that the death had been fake. We had a lot of discussions around the death, funeral, and new stories. Suggested for clubs that enjoy a female-centered novel with a lot of relationships and secrets.

Menu: "Prosecco and shrimp cocktail (very Hollywood) and followed that with a "Tivoli dinner of caesar salad, penne & meatballs. We had an Italian Love cake for dessert! "                                                                                           

 

St. Louis Lit Book Club, Missouri; Melanie's Book Club, Sioux Falls, South Dakota  Angry Book Club, Norwich, Connecticut
THE INTERN by Michele Campbell, (St. Martin’s Press, 10/23)
A young Harvard law student falls under the spell of a charismatic judge in this timely and thrilling novel about class, ambition, family, and murder.

St. Louis Lit Book Club: “As fall nears the perfect book to pick up is a thriller like THE INTERN, which was interesting from the beginning. and the action was not far-fetched, which was nice for a thriller. Having two points of view allowed our book club to choose which characters we liked most and why. There were many characters to keep track of, which added layers to the discussion. Legal thrillers were new to some, and the reaction was positive to receiving a new type of book we may not have otherwise picked. Recommended for those who enjoy legal thrillers, and multi-character stories. and fast-paced mysteries."

Menu: "We drank wine to match the cover at Winnie's Wine Bar in St. Louis."

Angry Book Club: We enjoyed THE INTERN! We are known for being pretty critical (hence the anger) but this book got thumbs up, and we especially enjoyed the end! This book had me turning pages, especially with the switched perspectives! There was much conversation about Madison’s indecisiveness, which annoyed some members, while others thought it made her more relatable. We also discussed whether Katherine was smart enough to escape her situation without taking the steps she did. Several of us live near, or have spent time in Boston, and really enjoyed the Boston descriptions and mentions of real restaurants and places —the characters actually drink Dunkin, take the T (and get off at real stops), and live in areas of the city that make sense. This led to a great discussion about books that successfully create a sense of place and the joy of reading books about places we have lived. Recommended for those who enjoy legal thrillers.

Melanie's Book Club: "We all loved THE INTERN. It was a great match for our book club because it's rare for us to find a book that we all enjoy and this was that book! We had an excellent discussion about the book, specifically talking about the relationships among the characters in the book- and how they affected their decision-making. Being from the Midwest, we couldn't really relate to the mob connections, but we could relate to family difficulties and making difficult decisions regarding family members  We had many discussions about our families and the different relationships, troubles, and decisions. We know each other well, but it was interesting to learn more and refreshing to hear that all families have issues and work through them in different ways. Recommended for those who enjoy conflict, suspense, and deciding how far you'll go to protect your family."     

The Famished for Fiction Book Club of Frisco, Texas, Flagstaff Ladies Book Club, Arizona, Boozy Books Book Club and Kaukauna Wisconsin

YOUR PLANTATION PROM IS NOT OKAY by Kelly McWilliams (Little Brown, 5/23)
A YA novel about Harriet Douglass, a teenager living with her historian father on a plantation turned enslaved people's museum, who must handle her feelings of anger when an actress who purchased the plantation next door, plans to turn it into an event venue.

Famished for Fiction: “We loved this multilayered story. The magnitude of all the things affecting Harriet led to a lot of thoughtful discussion. We gave it 5/5 stars!"

The setting of the book reminded us of Whitney Plantation in South Louisiana. We discussed the struggle that exists between the beauty of the plantation homes and grounds the acknowledgment of the horrors of slavery and the pain and suffering of the enslaved people that were forced against their will to build those homes and maintain those grounds. Is it possible to be in awe of those beautiful places and yet heartbroken by the pain that surrounds them?

The importance of seeing both sides of a story and acknowledging them is what leads to improvement in our relationships with people who are different from ourselves. Harriett spent much time caring for herself as her father was unable to do more than the bare minimum after the death of her mother. Harriett's anger with outsiders' inability to see, acknowledge, and respect the purpose of a landmark such as their plantation. We recommend this book to those who enjoy thought-provoking reads that have a different perspective from the 'norm. We are a diverse group of women who enjoy thought-provoking books that enhance our discussion and this was a great fit."

Menu:  Down South Kitchen and Bakery for Southern food

Boozy Books: "Thank you for the match! We might not have read YOUR PLANTATION PROM IS NOT OKAY otherwise. When a book makes you cry it’s automatically a great book .We liked the mix of the main character's naïveté and cynicism as the book progresses. We discussed toxic parenting and our perceptions of the adults, the character’s adjustments as they navigate issues, our appreciation of having a flawed main character, and the grace given to Layla but not the white friends she grew up with. We were interested in the 17-year-old perspective—and all the current social issues and cultural references, such as TikTok. 'What’s up with teen/middle school boys and frogs' stood out as an amusement.

We recommend this novel to clubs who enjoy contemporary social issue books, or DEAR MARTIN or THE HATE YOU GIVE.”

Flagstaff Ladies: “We all enjoyed this novel, which spurred much discussion about the South (none of us grew up there), plantations, tourist rentals, grief, and growing up a person of color in today's America. We also liked the main character because Harriet is such a teenager —more than half of us are moms of girls).

We live in a tourist town, so though the housing isn't all historic, there are wealthy outsiders who have second homes here, so the way Harriet bristles at the new neighbors resonated. The way she also kind of liked the new girl and determined she was human was also something a few of us could identify with. And her anger issues...not unfamiliar! It was a great trait to give Harriet, and we talked a bit about our own struggles with rage, as well as dealing with others who have trouble controlling theirs.

We have a significant Native-American presence in our city, so that is where we see discrimination, disrespect, and racism crop up, and we had a great discussion about how as women, we also see (and experience) these micro- or upfront- aggressions more readily than our male partners. We also discussed being in a bit of a bubble because it is a small city, and there are no obvious monuments to discrimination that we would drive by all the time (on the nearby reservation, yes). The discussion about grief was also interesting -- how do you remember your loved ones? Do you remember their last days or the rest of their lives? We had a debate about Dawn and what we would have thought about our daughters dating him, or a friend dating their childhood buddy. We liked him but realized we would have been protective of Harriet because she was not very savvy about relationships. We thought the story was well-written and it was nice that it didn't end with everything neatly resolved -- that was realistic. Recommended for those who enjoy novels about young adults, the South, and that discuss racism."                                        

Menu: "One of our group stopped at fast food on the way to book club. Shout out to Harriet's dad!"        

 The Revivals, Germantown, Wisconsin; Woodlands Lunch and Books, Woodlands, Texas Get Woke, New Prague, Minnesota; Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado "

CHASING THE PANTHER: Adventures and Misadventures of a Cinematic Life Carolyn Pfeiffer with Gregory Collins (Harper Horizon, 6/23)
Film producer and early Hollywood female coming-of-age memoir, set against the backdrop of Fellini's Rome, French New Wave Paris, and Swinging London.

Get Woke: "CHASING THE PANTHER reads like a novel: encounters with the rich and famous; travels to exotic cities and countries, experiences, and success as a pioneering film producer and PR representative. We called Pfeiffer the ‘female Forrest Gump’'–Readers travel on a high-speed train rocketing through Pfeiffer’s coming-of-age adventures as she explores NYC and Europe during the turbulent 1960s-‘70s amidst the significant cultural shifts and the ascendance of the film industry. Pfeiffer vividly describes the art, culture, and society of post-war Europe and New York City. Her insights into the actors and film industry were fascinating. The film industry's growth is part of a larger story involving changing attitudes and paradigm shifts of the post-war years, a time when many of us also came of age. The introduction of the birth control pill and Pfeiffer’s romantic encounters mirrored the cultural changes. Book club invitations featured film strips. members were asked to become film directors: and select highlights from the book for a film preview. We discussed the changing role of women and Pfeiffer’s lifetime goal of ‘pushing boundaries’. She felt you had to ‘leave yourself behind’ to discover uniqueness. We were drawn to her comments on women’s status: the expectation that a woman’s role was to be worthy of a man. Her reply resonated: ‘Let no one ever call me worthy.’ Pfeiffer challenged the attitudes of patriarchy, the power of men, and the sensuality of women. Her adventures allowed us to experience the paradigm shifts occurring in the world—positive and negative We agreed her talents, opportunities, and personality allowed her to take advantage of this era, and the difficulty of duplicating this experience today."

Menu: "Honoring her European adventures: Caprese skewers, olives, goat cheese & figs, Pinot Grigio."

The Revivals: “CHASING THE PANTHER covers so many points of interest that it was easy for us to chat all the way through dessert!" We took turns reading and discussing Carolyn's numerous life reflections and insights - we highlighted dozens of quotes. We marveled at Carolyn's remarkable and brave life as she fearlessly pursued her goals. It felt like two books in one: Carolyn's honest and heartfelt observations about her experiences, and a comprehensive cinematic timeline from Europe to the United States. We focused on the former, but scholars will find a valuable resource in the cinematic narrative. As Pfeiffer discussed celebrities, producers, and directors— at times this overwhelmed us, but we are not familiar with the industry and these details were a first exposure. We enjoyed Carolyn's numerous life reflections. GalleyMatch has inspired us to read books we would not have known about and/or genres we would not have selected on our own."

Menu: "Lunch overlooking the lake with multicultural appetizers: Baba ganoush with toasted pita bread (a nod to Omar Sharif); Beet and goat cheese dip with assorted fresh vegetables (Market Fresh Vegetables like one would shop for in France), Avocado chicken salad with jicama and peperoncini peppers on a bed of lettuce with French baguette (A nod to Italy) Dessert:-Lemon buttermilk ice cream with black currant jam and sugar cone."

Woodlands Lunch and Books:  "A good match for It is interesting to read about lives so different from our own and we enjoyed this coming-of-age story.  In a world of cinematic greats, it was fun to read some of the portrayals from Carolyn’s perspective.  A member commented that reading the book made them want to see Doctor Zhivago and another mentioned that they loved Omar Sharif even more after reading the book.  There was a discussion of a disturbing scene in the book and many were disappointed at the actor involved.  We also enjoyed the descriptions of some of the locales throughout Europe that we knew.  As Carolyn discovered herself through the many ups and downs of her early life, it was fascinating to watch her independence shine, especially with Suso d’Amico supporting her career choices. A few members were unfamiliar with numerous names and had to search online for them. Those that enjoy biographies and memoirs, especially of old Hollywood would enjoy this book."

Ranch Readers: "We recall the 1950s and '60s and thoroughly enjoyed CHASING THE PANTHER—the people, films, and occasions were familiar to us, making it a delightful read.

We found Ms. Pfeiffer's memoir exceptionally captivating and thought-provoking. It provided a glimpse into the golden era of cinema behind the scenes. We sympathized with her misfortunes and rejoiced in her successes as a self-sufficient and accomplished woman. We remember the movie era when Carolyn began her career and those she met and interacted with throughout. Although it seemed she lived a fairy tale life, Carolyn faced traumatic events she recounted with candor. Her strength and determination allowed her to overcome adversity and lead a fulfilling artistic life. Her memoir offers a glimpse into the world of fame and fortune in the film industry and a raw, honest portrayal of her struggles and triumphs.

The images added to our enjoyment—several members remembered having photos of Omar Sharif on their bedroom walls as teenagers. We discussed our recollections of the era that Carolyn described, including the films, directors, and producers she mentioned. Despite the notable progress made in women's rights, we realized many obstacles Carolyn faced still endure. The consensus was that success in the film industry depends on connections, and we were impressed by her ability to form relationships with influential figures, and that she was able to rise above her tragedies with grace and not let them deter her from living her best life. Recommended for readers who enjoy a memoir full of experiences more interesting than fiction and film history."

Menu: "Italian cookies that were a tribute to Carolyn's adventures in Italy."

Junior League Book Club of Kalamazoo, Michigan; Spectacles Book  Club, Geneva, Ohio, and Hagerstown Housewives, Hagerstown, Maryland
NO TWO PERSONS  by Erica Bauermeister (St. Martin's Press, 5/2/23)
A novel about the ways in which one book transforms its readers' lives.

Junior League of Kalamazoo: “Every member loved NO TWO PERSONS, the first book in a long time that we overwhelmingly agreed that we loved.T his book is about a book and the reactions and experiences of nine people who encounter it. Even those that couldn’t attend our discussion were texting with their input— the consensus—this book is a home run. We had a great discussion centered around the first line of the fictional book ‘Wandering is a gift given only to the lost,’ and the idea that no two people ever experience anything exactly the same way.

We discussed the way each character responded to the book and why we felt they were so drawn to it. We loved the little Easter Eggs of how characters were connected and agreed that the widower's story was one of our favorites/most heartbreaking. We loved how the story of each character seemed like it could be a stand-alone short story.

“We were surprised that our entire book club loved the book— we tend to be very opinionated and are almost always split on our reading selections. And that we all loved it was much more interesting, as the theme is about how people experience books differently. Just Ike the characters in the book, we had different experiences and reactions while reading it, but in the end, we were all drawn to it for many of the same reasons. Every last one of us recommends NO TWO PERSONS, especially for those who enjoy short stories, unique characters, and lively discussion."

Spectacles: "We agreed that NO TWO PERSONS was a perfect match for our group. What a thought-provoking book. Each book club member’s favorite parts, thoughts, characters, and quotes began a lively conversation about the value and power of words. The individual stories demonstrated how one book can affect readers in amazing and unexpected ways.  It was interesting to read how one book connected all the characters. 

We loved all of the characters and their stories, and everyone in our book club had a favorite.  As teachers, many of us connected with Nola—a character we could easily relate to—and we thought William and Abigail's story was heartbreaking.  We learned through Alice's story that in many ways, a writer's own life experiences affect what is written.We explored the character in each story and saw how the stories were connected.  We discussed how parts of Alice's book were found in each chapter.  It was interesting to see how and when we were able to put the bits and pieces together to tell Theo's story.   As the chapters progressed, we were able to see the impact that the book had on each person and how they moved on.  This book reminded us that no two persons interpret the same book in the same way and interpretations that we share depend on where we are at a certain time.  In addition to the written stories, we loved how the cover depicted the nine readers!

We shared some of our favorite quotes for discussion, such as ‘The beauty of books—they take you places you didn't know you needed to go.’

Menu: "Foods connected to stories: Ramen noodle salad, granola bars (Nola). PBJ sliders and potato chips (Alice and Peter), banana muffins (William)"

Hagerstown Housewives:  “We all enjoyed NO TWO PERSONS. Erica Bauermeister's writing was loved by all. We loved the premise that one story can affect people differently. Some of the most interesting topics were the different chapters that each individual person in my book club liked and their reasons why. We discussed the different stories that resonated. Since we are all book lovers in our book club, we connected to the story of each of the 9 persons who read about Theo.   We all had a soft spot for the book and its many characters. We recommend for those who enjoy relatable stories that connect people in inspiring ways.”                     

Famished for Fiction, Frisco, Texas; Lit Ladies, Indianapolis, Indiana, and Between the Pages, Mt. Morris, New York
BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN by Diane Chamberlain( St. Martins Press, 2020)
A novel of chilling intrigue, a decades-old disappearance, and a woman’s quest for the truth.

Famished for Fiction: We highly recommend BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN, which will remain with us for a long time. The contrasting timelines of the 1940s and the present day, as well as the varying perspectives, made for a captivating read." -

"Chamberlain's writing was impressive, and she has now become one of our favorite authors. Our club enjoyed this intricately crafted book and appreciated the diversity of opinions from our multi-racial group. We learned about the WPA project and the historical setting of Edenton, North Carolina, which we found fascinating. During our discussions, we explored the complex relationships between characters, such as Jesse and Anna, Morgan and Oliver. We delved into the secrets that Nellie kept, and the burden of family responsibility. The ending kept us guessing, and the short chapters made it easy to follow the multiple storylines. Most members gave this novel a 5/5 rating.”

Lit Ladies: "We all enjoyed this novel and it inspired great discussion—success! We discussed the dual timelines, the connections between the protagonists, the art restoration process and research, the epilogue ending, and various aberrations/additions in the mural that Anna added. Members commented that they ‘binged it,’ ‘loved it, ‘couldn’t put it down,’ and “read 250 pages at once.' We recommend to clubs that enjoy historical thrillers and mysteries."

Between the Pages: “Thank you for this read! Hot discussion topics were the dual storyline, life in prison, the big reveal, and small-town life. We live in a small area, so that was discussed at length. We recommend for those clubs that enjoy Intertwined storylines and thrills."                        

Thrillers by the Bookclub-SoCal, and Reckless Readers, Eastford, Connecticut
THE SOULMATE by Sally Hepworth (St. Martins Press, 4/23)
A thriller about marriage, betrayal, and the secrets that push us to the edge,

Thrillers by the Bookclub-SoCal: "We loved THE SOULMATE!, a perfect match for our book club. Most agreed that this one is one of our favorite Sally Hepworth We’re huge fans of hers. Half of our book club met Sally in person during her book tour at Zibby's Bookshop— fantastic! 

"We discussed the dynamics between the two couples and which one was the true soulmate. We appreciated how the author added important topics such as mental health, adoption, and addiction. The characters were intriguing and the level of suspense had us on the edge of our seats. We loved having the perspective of Amanda which gave us a great insight into details about the characters’ relationships.

We enjoyed talking about Gabe’s transformation from the beginning of the story, when we all thought he was a wonderful human being, to the end,  where many details about his character are revealed. The discussion questions provided an excellent guide for our chat. We recommend THE SOULMATE to book clubs that enjoy reading suspenseful family dramas with an atmospheric setting."

Reckless Readers: Normally we discuss the book for a little while, and then jump to other topics. Not last night! There was too much to discuss after reading THE SOULMATE —everyone loved the book and the twists! This book was such a conversation starter! Sally Hepworth is so good at working mental health into her books. Hepworth nailed the portrayal of mental illness as well as codependency— the character Gabe was hard to read, because of how accurately she depicted his illness. Members wanted to break down the relationship between Pippa and Gave, and how forgiving Pippa was when most people would walk. It was an emotional conversation, with so many personal perspectives and stories.

Most members had never read a Sally Hepworth book. After last night, everyone added her books to their TBR lists. I’ve been reading her for years, and was happy to see they felt the same way about her books! Sally is an excellent storyteller. Thank you so much for the excellent #GalleyMatch.

Menu: "Soulmate bars—peanut butter & jelly—the ultimate soulmate of food! And “The Drop Martini” —a cranberry lemon drop martini, that will send you over the edge after only a few! " 

Get Lit Book Club, Coto de Caza, California, and April's Book Chat, Frisco, Texas

THE STORIES WE TELL: Every Piece of Your Story Matters by Joanna Gaines (Harper Select . 11/8/22)
The first solo memoir from the Magnolia co-founder.

April's Book Chat: THE STORIES WE TELL sparked lively conversations and reflections among our members. Many members resonated with Gaines' experiences of racial hate and bullying, finding validation in their own experiences with mixed heritage. The book inspired us to consider journaling as a means of processing life's events and thoughts, and we appreciated the pearls of wisdom scattered throughout the text. While some members debated whether the book was self-help or memoir, others simply enjoyed it for what it was. We recommend this book to fans of personal development books.

We met at Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea Shops at Creekside in Frisco, Texas, a cozy spot with a welcoming atmosphere reminiscent of Gaines' own design style, making it the perfect location for our discussion."

Get Lit: "We’re all fans of Chip and Joanna’s and enjoyed learning more about her. Chip is so funny and Joanna always appears to be calm, so it was interesting learning about her childhood and the difficulties she faced.

“Everyone agreed the book was a fast read and we enjoyed getting to know Joanna and her story, earning about how she grew up, met Chip, how they started their business and raised children in a world that can be harsh sometimes. We discussed ‘growing up being ‘different’ than her classmates and how we overcame that. Some members found junior high to be difficult while others struggled in high school. We recommend it to those who enjoy memoirs/ nonfiction/self-help. Fans of Chip and Joanna should pick up THE STORIES WE TELL, and sit down to read it with some biscuits and jam as we did!”
Menu: “We made and discussed recipes from THE MAGNOLIA TABLE COOKBOOK! We enjoyed Joanna‘s famous biscuits, silo cookies, scones, and stuffed mushrooms. Joanna is gifted with her baking and decorating— such a unique individual."

Jensen Beach County Club's Womens Book Club of Florida,  The Wine Club With a Book Problem of Acworth, Georgia, and Blu Stocking Literary Society of West Allis, Wisconsin
THE JEWELER OF STOLEN DREAMS by M.J. Rose (Blue Box, 2/23)

A tale of two passionate women— a  famous jewelry designer who fights to protect her company and rescue the man she loves, and an auctioneer whose gifts reveal a secret that endangers her very life, 

Jensen Beach County Club:  “We loved the descriptions of the jewelry that Suzanne Belperron made and the majority of us had researched Suzanne's designs after reading the book.A good match for our book club. We enjoy historical fiction or books with strong women. This novel features a dual timeline— France, 1942, and New York, 1986. Suzanne is a sought-after jewelry designer in France and her longtime lover and business partner, Bernard has been arrested by the Nazis. Violine is an appraiser for an auction company in 1986 and has been approached by Paul Osgood about selling family antiques. While visiting his home, she discovers a hidden compartment in a vintage Louis Vuitton case containing WWII-era jewelry. Violine is gifted with learning the history and secrets of objects she touches, and their owners and realizes that the jewelry has a long and tragic history. Violine and Paul work together to discover the history of the case and the jewelry. We discussed how Dixie and Suzanne demonstrated this in their work for the resistance movement."

Menu: "French rose wine, croissants, olives, brie, baguettes with French butter, chocolate mousse, cheesecake, dark chocolate squares, and cappuccino."

The Wine Club With a Book Problem "THE JEWELER OF STOLEN DREAMS is a captivating and powerful story that grabs you from the first page— a good match for as we like historical fiction with strong women. We enjoy books in which we learn something new, and the story prompts us further investigate a topic—in this case, Suzanne Belperron, one of the most innovative jewelers of her time, and her jewelry designs. This intriguing story explored Suzanne Belperron's courage and those who participated in the French Resistance by helping Jewish families leave France. We liked the novel's alternating dual timelines—Paris 1942 and New York 1986—which link Suzanne and Violine, an art historian/appraiser with a  supernatural gift.  We noted that this is the first book we've read that involves psychometry.” 

Rose has written a beautiful and descriptive story. We recommend this book to those that enjoy magical realism, suspense, and World War II fiction."

Menu: "Brie, apples, Classic French Salad (romaine, tarragon, chives, walnuts with a lemon vinaigrette, Ina Garten's Bouef Bourguignon, Mashed Potatoes, macarons. truffles."

Blu Stocking: An excellent selection for our club. This story was fascinating and the psychometry was an interesting twist. We enjoy reading about real people in history within a historical fiction context. While the characters are placed in a fictional story, there is much to take away. Several of us did some research on Suzanne Belperron and her jewelry designs. We also like the alternating timeline. robust discussion. We discussed psychometry's 'unbelievable' aspect juxtapositioned with an equally 'unbelievable' period of history as the holocaust. Also, we talked about the courage and actions of people in this world that are so brave and committed even in the face of personal danger, as well as the variety of themes—determination, strength of character, hope, faith, and love in all its incarnations, lovers (Suzanne/Bernard/Jean), friends (Suzanne & Dixie) and love of country/places (France)”

Curious Book Club,  Frederick, Maryland; St. Louis Women’s Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri; First Saturday Book Club, Pensacola, Florida

PRACTICE GIRL by Estelle Laure (Penguin Teen, 5/22)
A novel about a girl who rejects her label and decides for herself who she is to the world—about reputation and double standards,

St. Louis Women’s Book Club: “The themes were fantastic and the character was so likable. This YA novel explores high school, sexuality, friendships, and relationships. The themes of finding first loves and figuring out who you are made for great conversation! We discussed how high school is portrayed in the media today— are students really doing drugs, alcohol, and sex, as much as they portray? The book was well written and it was easy to visualize the small town high school. There were great moments in the friendships and relationships that are good lessons for that demographic.

Curious Book Club: “It was fun to read a book we typically wouldn’t have chosen - we hadn’t even heard of this one!t’s a YA coming of age/romance that features an angsty teenager that is coping with the loss of a parent and being used by boys who she thinks care for her. The story focuses on the challenges of dating and sex in high school. We loved the friendship storyline that developed throughout the book. Although the main character is very angsty, the emotions were real and raw throughout the story.  We thought that the ending of the story was the most interesting! We loved that Jo was able to have a heart-to-heart with her mom and stepdad to build a better relationship with her family. We all were in favor of the guy she chooses in the end! l. Recommended for those who enjoy YA coming-of-age stories.”

Menu: We met at a diner because there was a diner in the story!

First Saturday Book Club: "We had a great discussion about PRACTICE GIRLan honest, moving YA read that should be in the hands of more teens. PRACTICE GIRL offers a strong look at what it means to participate in a relationship and the need for teens to understand the ramifications of sex and responsibility and dedication to relationships. The author writes with emotional depth—we feel everything Jo goes through, and we root for Jo to win at wrestling and life. It’s clever, charming, and poignant. 

We discussed teenage behaviors: that Jo was not responsible for Sam kissing her yet she is blamed, how girls need to have girl relationships so they have support, the importance of family, taking others into consideration while establishing boundaries, and understanding the relationship before sex. Also, that growing up and having friendships change is difficult but a part of growing up. We all enjoyed this coming-of-age novel, recommended for this for groups that enjoy YA lit with emotional depth."

Happy Bookers, Linn Missouri, Lit Ladies Read Melbourne, Florida, and St. Louis Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri; and Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York
WEYWARD by Emila Hart (St. Martin's Press, 3/23)

A novel weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries— a story of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world

Happy Bookers: “A gem of a book with resilient female characters is our favorite GalleyMatch to date.”- on a novel weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries— a story of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world, read with galleys from
“Hart has given us much to ponder in a most bewitching tale. Altha, Violet, and Kate will long stay with us for their resilience and fortitude. We agreed that witchcraft isn’t accomplished through spells, but by their connection to the world around them -— and that was most appreciated and enjoyed. We cheered at the comeuppance of the perpetrators who caused harm both physical and mental to the female characters. We discussed the plight and strength of women over the ages dealing with similar treatment. The three women characters were enthralling. The author wove the three timelines of the Weyward women’s lives together expertly. Their plight, resourcefulness, and special powers along with their ties to nature and their strength to survive amidst adversity and ill-treatment earn these characters a place in your heart. The short chapters breeze along while keeping the depth of the characters and story strong. Highly recommended by our group to fellow readers. The perfect fall read. The perfect anytime read! Cannot wait to read more from this author.”

Menu: Orton stew (chicken and rice soup) W pendant cakes(cupcakes), Witches sticks and twigs (fried tortilla strips), Cottage dip (cowboy caviar), Crow Bars (brownie bites), Insect Wings(corn chips), Graham Crackers(saltines and wheat thins), and Morgs(moon drop grapes)in a member’s backyard and woods for our book reenactments."

Lit Ladies Read:“ We loved everything about this book! This is a very compelling read that highlights the connection between women, family, and nature."
WEYWARD is a beautifully written story about the strength and resilience of three different women. The story is told in alternating timelines, in different centuries leaving the reader to wonder how these women are related. The Weyward women all face similar, yet different, hardships of violence, abuse, and expectations of society that they must overcome. The women all have a very strong connection to nature and find strength and inner peace through this connection. The alternating timelines advance the story and keep you wanting more. The descriptive language paints a clear picture, and we loved the alternating timelines—each character's story was compelling and gave a feel for what these women had to endure. We spent quite a bit of time discussing the treatment of women who were deemed ’weird’ throughout history. It is frightening to think that there was a period in history when women could be labeled witches and executed based on nothing more than conjecture and failure to conform to societal expectations. Altha's storyline, in particular really highlighted how ludicrous the idea of witchcraft really is and how scared people were of anyone who was different. Another hot topic was domestic abuse and how difficult it can be for abused women to escape their abuser. Both Kate's and Violet's stories dealt with physical and sexual abuse that required both women to find the strength to remove themselves from their situations. We recommend for those who enjoy stories about women finding their inner strength to overcome hardship.”

Menu: Witching Hour Cabernet Sauvignon and witch hat cupcakes.

St. Louis: "WEYWARD was intense, honest and deeply connected to today’s time The three timelines and main character add layers of interconnected themes and details. At first glance, these are very different women but ultimately all face similar situations. We discussed feminism and the growth of women throughout time, how the patriarchy impacts women’s abilities to make choices, and Nature vs nurture—these women all were born to be Weyward, not raised to be Weyward.
Recommended for those who enjoyed THE LOST APOTHECARY by Sarah Penner; three perspectives or time periods in stories; the power of nature; books about powerful women and the ability to be strong despite the circumstances and external environment. This book has some trigger warnings that I think all readers need to be extremely mindful of before reading (physical/verbal abuse, parental abuse, rape, pregnancy loss, abortion, jail).

Reading Between the Wines: “This book was a perfect match for our club. We all enjoyed this story of three women from the same family line at different points in time. There was so much to discuss here: our connection to the natural world, overcoming trauma, giving yourself grace, and the strength and resilience of women, feminism, women’s connection to the natural world, family legacies, and overcoming trauma We thought the author did a great job incorporating the interconnected stories of Althea, Violet, and Kate. Recommended to book clubs that enjoy women’s fiction, historical fiction with dual timelines, and a touch of magical realism.

Menu: "Food to honor the garden at Weyward cottage, including veggie crackers with garden vegetables, and basil cheese, roasted vegetable pizza, and fresh veggies with hummus. We also had blueberry scones with jam and tea and biscuits as a nod to the English settings in the book."

Longwood Ladies, Goshen, Kentucky and Colonies Book Club, Yorkville, Illinois
ANGELS OF THE RESISTANCE by Noelle Salazar ( Mira,/ HTP, 11/22)
A story inspired by true events, about courageous women who risked everything for their country, family, and each other

Longwood Ladies: “ANGELS OF THE RESISTANCE was a great book club book.We all loved learning about a neutral country. It was a new take on that era that we all really enjoyed! We discussed how much we learned about the World War II era, We talked a lot about and enjoyed the fact that it shined the light on a true sister act.  It was the first historical fiction I’ve read that took place in the Netherlands during World War II. It was a refreshing change to hear the trials from a neutral neighbor. The characters were easy to relate to and love and my heart was wrenched by their bravery and struggles. We fell in love with the characters —they were strong, intelligent, patient women right from the start and their growth and determination were astounding. We recommend ANGELS to those who enjoy historical fiction and reading about strong women! If you enjoyed THE LILAC GIRLS, ROSE CODE, or Salazar’s first book, FLIGHT GIRLS, you will enjoy this historical fiction. We all thank you immensely!”

Colonies Book Club: "Some members were in tears throughout this beautifully told story of two young sisters who risk everything for their homeland during World War II. Our members loved this book. Some comments: A heart-wrenching read that is full of tenderness, resilience, courage, brutality, and devotion. The author did a great job of opening our eyes to the hardships of living through Nazi occupation Salazar demonstrated how strong the bonds of sisters, family, and friends are in a powerful way. This story is told from the perspective of a young teenage girl and how innocence is lost through the actions necessary to fight the evil that ripped her country apart. We were unfamiliar with the occupation of the Netherlands and learned about their struggle with starvation and freezing during the last years of the war. We couldn’t imagine girls getting involved with the resistance and what they were willing to do for their country. We all felt the guilt that Lien carried throughout her life over her little sister's death and the catalyst that was for her to join the resistance. We loved the epilogue and the closure it gave us about all of the character

Literary Lovelies, Yonkers, New York; Reckless Readers, East Lyme, Connecticut: CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut
THE VILLA by Rachel Hawkins(St. Martin's Press, 1/23)
A gothic suspense novel set at an Italian villa with a dark history.

Literary Lovelies:" We all loved the book! This book has books within the book!”-“We discussed both storylines and if we found ourselves drawn to one story or the other. Susan loved the dual timelines and thought the Mari storyline felt like a movie! We also discussed whether we saw that Mark and Chess were together. A lot of people had thoughts on Chess! We decided she was either a Love or hate character. We also discussed if you have to like the characters to like a book. Chelsey thought the book reminded her of Rachel’s other books and talked about her distinct writing style. We loved how easy it was to read, and enjoyed the epistolary chapters that enhanced the story. We felt the book wrapped up a little quickly and we wished that Emily had stood up for herself a little more! But the Italy location was a favorite of ours as well as the slight gothic style of the Mari plot line. We recommend THE VILLA to clubs that enjoy dual timelines in beautiful settings! Thank you so much for this opportunity!"

Menu: "We meet virtually, but enjoyed some limoncello while reading the book! Emily and Chess are a little over-served on limoncello their first night in Italy."

CT Lit Book Club: This book had us in a heated discussion about what we would do if we were in the main character’s situation. We found ourselves in a coffee shop yelling about dead husbands and realized we probably should put our books on the tabble so other patrons see we are actually discussing a book!!
“We were excited to preview a Rachel Hawkins title! The majority of us have read THE WIFE UPSTAIRS and RECKLESS GIRLS, along with some of her Erin Sterling books.
We had high expectations for THE VILLA, as it is highly anticipated by the bookstagram community. Overall, we expected it to be more ‘thrilling’, but we enjoyed it and were enthralled wondering what was going to end up happening and how the two stories of what took place at the villa were going to bridge together. One member described her reading experience as the story ‘always having an air of suspicion to keep her intrigued.’ We really loved the setting of the villa in Italy and loved the throwbacks to the 70s! We recommend this book to those that enjoy drama, and books like BIG LITTLE LIES.’

Reckless Readers: "Everyone loved the book, rating it Hawkins’s best yet!"- “This is our second GalleyMatch for a Rachel Hawkins book, and we were very excited! Most members read THE VILLA in two sittings We could not wait to rant about the characters we hated, dissect the twists, and gush over the amazing setting. There was a lot of early chatter in the week before our meeting — those that finished it early could not wait to have our discussion.

The level of betrayal among friends was the biggest discussion. We loved the setting, the dual timelines, and the parallels between them. The twists were nonstop and unexpected, which kept us page-turning. The dual timelines made the story. Going from Emily & Chess presently staying at the Villa, to Mari in 1974, the reader gets the full picture of what really happened at The Villa Aestas. Both stories have parallels that are frightening. It seems that you can’t stay at the Villa without it taking someone from you. There are love triangles, friendship deceits, thrilling reveals, and murder to fit everyone’s appetite. It’s dark and atmospheric in ways we have never seen from Rachel Hawkins. She packed so many surprises into this book, but the last chapter is the biggest. There was a hot debate among the group on whether that last chapter was even necessary. How many twists are too many? We recommend if you enjoy big twisty thrillers that grip you until the end —add it to your preorder list! It's out in January, and will be on everyone’s hot list for 2023!"

Menu: “Italian lemon theme to match book: lemon basil pasta salad, lemon ricotta hot cheese dip, limoncello cocktails.”

Melanie's Book Club, Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Riverside Readers, Plain City, Ohio; Amy's Book Club, Boulder Colorado
A LIGHT IN THE FOREST by Melissa Payne (Lake Union, 2022)
An emotional and suspenseful novel about the weight of secrets and the healing power of friends and family.

Riverside Readers: “We loved the Ohio setting and although Crystal was a made-up town, we have been to similar small towns and could picture the intent while we read. We appreciated the fun and quirky characters with a hint of underlying mystery in the book. don't know. We discussed the small town, the stereotypes, and the reality, not all small towns in Ohio are like that but we knew why the author picked to use the stereotypical poor/mining town in Appalachia. The timelines coordinated well together with the flashbacks. The characters of the small town were unique and we liked how they interacted with each other—they balanced the trauma. The reader's guide for this book was great. Thank you! We love being introduced to new authors and this time it helped build a new small community of readers, as this is a new book club."

Amy's Book Club: "The setting drew us in, the characters moved us, and the story had us in its grip —and caused many of us to stay up way too late reading. Everyone loved the characters and felt invested in their stories, and wanted to know more about some of the more peripheral characters. We discussed, justice, bullies getting away with things, whether the law is involved or not, and how the town changed regarding violence toward the LGBTQIA+ community. We discussed the repetition of ‘running’ at the beginning and how it would have felt to be Vega just trying to escape and survive; the town dynamics and why it was mostly accepted that the Harrisons could bully who they pleased without repercussions — contrasted with the senseless shooting that took place the night before we met in Colorado Springs and whether we thought there would or could be justice.
We discussed which of the lovable/heroic characters we enjoyed the most and whether Vega was a hero or a victim;, the pacing of how quickly Vega developed community in Crystal, secrets and why they should be kept or told; our reactions to Vega checking Instagram and our internal screamings at her of what we wanted her to do, the town's support of Eve, and what would happen next for all of them. We recommend A LIGHT IN THE FOREST to book clubs that enjoy complicated relationships and a multi-decade mystery to unravel."

Melanie’s Book Club:" We loved the opportunity to preview A LIGHT IN THE FOREST. We are reading another Melissa Payne book this month, as a result! Everyone had positive comments and the book made for great conversation. One member who is stingy with book ratings gave our selection 5 stars. This is a thoughtful, well-written book that discusses real-life issues with great character development. A main discussion point was the different social issues addressed in the book and that the author didn't 'preach' about them. Our group has many teachers and nurses in it and this made an impact on us, especially since we see these issues in the lives of our students and patients. We appreciated the character development and that through the different points of view, we were able to put pieces of the puzzle together before Vega did, yet it didn’t take away from the mystery. This book is a must-read! We look forward to seeing if her other books have a similar writing style and theme."

Madame Woods Book Club of Wiscasset, Maine, and Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey
THE WAYS WE HIDE, by Kristina McMorris (Sourcebooks, 2022)
A sweeping World War II tale of an illusionist whose recruitment by British intelligence sets her on a perilous, heartrending path.Madame Woods: “This book changed the way some of our readers perceive historical fiction. We were amazed at the authors’ ability to weave real-life events into an intricate and complex story. McMorris grabbed our attention with her latest novel, based on true facts This character-driven novel has elements of romance and suspense with a bittersweet ending. The novel begins with the main character Fenna whose life was significantly shaped by a stampede on Christmas Eve. Her perseverance from childhood helped her maintain her determination and profound instinct to get through life’s challenges along the way. Fenna, an intelligent character, is shaped by life events and uses those experiences to maneuver through challenges. This novel has elements of history and fiction interwoven in a way that makes the reader feel as though they are right alongside the characters.
We discuss the intricacies of the story and how relatable the main character was. McMorris thoughtfully and seamlessly transitions from a story of romance, into a detail-oriented spy novel, and keeps the reader o n the edge of their seat in anticipation of what direction the story and characters would go next. She challenges the reader to keep up with current and past storylines, all while inserting historical events, distracting the reader - they are well intertwined into the characters' lives and the book’s storylines. THE WAYS WE HIDE offers a variety of themes that would appeal to a large readership. So many beautiful moments, even in the last chapters of the book, that offer a sweet and real conclusion.”Book Club Girls of Sparta: "We enjoyed reading about a part of history we did not know of.Most of us were unaware of the Dutch involvement in the resistance or hadn't heard of this chapter of history where women recruited into the resistance worked on inventing escape aids that were hidden in things like games, and the hiding of clues and maps in ordinary objects was interesting to learn about. The resounding takeaway was the fact that so many people risked everything to help the resistance, to help other humans stay safe. Many questioned whether they would be as brave, especially being a woman. We found the most connecting part of the story was Fennas; bravery, and fearlessness even though she had deep trauma from the fire. We recommend THE WAYS WE HIDE to groups interested in historical fiction about new pieces of World War III history and strong female protagonists."Menu: Tea and speculoos cookies.

Brunch & Books Club, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Literary Fires Everywhere, Cortland Manor, New York
THE BODYGUARD by Katherine Center, (St. Martin's Press, 7/22)
A romantic and humorous romance about a bodyguard, and the movie star she's hired to protect, as they work to keep things professional under crazy circumstances

Brunch & Books: “We discussed the main character’s growth. Everyone enjoyed the love story, but seeing how the character grew into herself from start to finish was what really stood out. She gained confidence and self-respect that she didn’t have at the beginning and that really resonated with members. The discussion questions prompted a good conversation that brought to mind parts of the story we might not have discussed.
I Ioved this fun and funny book with every piece of my heart. It was my first Katherine Center novel and it felt as if I was sitting with a BFF listening to her tell e this hilarious and heartwarming story. 10/10! The Author’s Note alone is worth 5 stars. Don’t skip it! Recommended for those who enjoy funny, happy love stories! We’re so appreciative of the opportunity! “

Literary Fires Everywhere: "We all enjoyed this book. I am definitely not a regular rom-com reader— I usually find myself rolling my eyes at plots that make others swoon— but I really did love this book. It’s super cute, engaging, and the characters feel real. Even the setting popped right off the page! Definitely recommend grabbing this one!

Hannah has been hired to be a bodyguard to Jack, a Hollywood burnout who would prefer not to have a bodyguard. The pair have palpable chemistry, and I quickly found myself rooting for them. We are not huge romance readers and we’re all pleasantly surprised that it was both fluffy and deep, a un reads with a bit of drama. We all loved the touches and the author’s descriptions. (The Bush steak knives)."

Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado;  and Bookish Ladies,  Coto de Caza, California
HESTER by Laurie Lico Albanese (St. Martin's Press, 10/4/22)
A vivid reimagining of the woman who inspired Hester Prynne, the tragic heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and a journey into the enduring legacy of New England's witchcraft trials.
Get Woke: "HESTER’s message empowered us! As Laurie Lico Albanese writes, Hester Prynne is ‘a heroic woman who defies powerful men and vengeful villagers by wearing the symbol of her shame like a badge of courage.’ Heroic women! May we be them and may we raise them!”A major symbol, incorporating the books' themes, was  Isobel's sewing skill and her ability to design and stitch beautiful patterns and scenes that revealed emotions and contained hidden messages.
Each member of the book club was asked to bring a bottle of wine (or another beverage of choice), containing a label that could reflect a 'hidden' message or theme of the story. Our discussion involved each of the members presenting her wine and describing the label, revealing aspects of the novel. These included PROPHECY WINES— The label’s images relate to the supernatural world, and scenes with shooting stars. Isobel struggles to accept her power, and the woman on the label exhibits power.*TEMPTATION AND EVE—Depicts Eve tempting Adam. Isobel’s community shuns her as a witch when she becomes pregnant. EVE elicited discussion on the Bible story – Isobel notes its message about untrustworthy women. GNARLY HEAD WINES—summarizes many characters' mental states: Hawthorne struggles with his family history of witch trials. Isobel struggles with her artistic creations and powers. *KALEIDOSCOPE:— Isabel’s gift enables her to create beautiful designs and messages on clothing and understand others’ emotions. WITCHING HOUR: summarized the novel’s mystery, fantasy, excitement, and passion.
Menu: A ‘community rice bowl’ is symbolic of the support and encouragement women shared in the novel. Member brought ingredients. Along with the theme of wine, dessert bars were labeled ‘Primitive Nuts’: many characters reflect this title!
We  also shared a representation of each member’s name created by a woman with synesthesia.”
Ranch Readers: "We were intrigued by the premise of imagining the woman who inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne's protagonist, Hester Prynne, in his iconic novel, THE SCARLET LETTER, In Hester, they meet -- Nathan is a young struggling writer, who is haunted by his ancestor's treatment of the witches of Salem. and Isobel is a young wife, who recently immigrated from Scotland, and has been deserted by an opium-addicted husband who left her destitute. Isobel supports herself by creating exquisite embroidery and also through the kindness of others in town. She has synesthesia-a sensory phenomenon in which she sees letters and sounds expressed in colors. Isobel learns at an early she to hide this ability so that she would not be called a witch, but she uses her extraordinary skill to create beautiful work. We agreed that the book's language was very descriptive and enthralling and we had a long discussion about our own creative processes that have enriched our life.

We thought character of 'Hathorne' -- what the author calls Hawthorne-- could have been developed a bit further as he seemed shallow and his treatment of Isobel seemed dismissive. The social issues of the time were well highlighted by the author with a concurrent story of the Witch Trials in Salem, the plight of fleeing saves using the Underground Railroad, the mistreatment and victimization of women who had no rights, the struggles of prejudice that immigrants face in America We enjoyed the novel and feel it is going to become a best seller - it was definitely a compelling read!

Menu: Bee-shaped tea cakes and chocolate and lemon lavender scones to enjoy with tea and coffee.

Bookish Ladies: "Everyone enjoyed the book and a fresh reboot of The Scarlet Letter. The author did a wonderful retelling and we loved the characters and the story. We had a great discussion and we’re so happy to have this fun experience. We highly recommend HESTER! One member loved the book so much that she took a trip to Salem - ok it was a brilliant coincidence that she was going there!"

Menu: "Many colorful vegetables mentioned in the book."

Famished for Fiction, Plano, Texas and Cork and Olive Book Club, Valrico, Florida
HALF-BLOWN ROSE by Leesa-Cross Smith (Grand Central, 2022)
A novel about a woman remaking her life after her husband’s betrayal leads to a year of travel, art, and passion in Paris.

Famished for Fiction: “We had a great time discussing HALF-BLOWN ROSE! This book really stretched us!" We discussed infidelity quite a bit: some members felt that the current problem —the marriage— needed to be resolved before embarking on another adventure—a relationship with Loup. We discussed that Vincent and Loup being independently wealthy contributed to their ability to just 'do as they pleased'. Vincent runs off to Paris; she and Loup travel by train to visit Theo, and family. Her family’s laid-back attitude when she shows up with Loup is a bit shocking; but, put into the context of their family, it made sense. SPOILER ALERT: We felt the ending left questions unanswered...maybe a sequel is in the plans? We would love to know if Vincent will return to Cillian, stay with Loup or go out on her own. We felt she was d searching for her freedom by leaving Kentucky and fleeing to Paris; but, in the end, becomes more tied down with the pregnancy. We recommend this book to those who enjoy Paris, romance, art, and secrets."Menu: We loved that the novel was set in Paris so we met at a French restaurant, Toulouse Cafe & Bar for quiche, Toulouse salad, lobster rolls, lobster risotto, and rose-themed drinks: French 77 and Rose all-day punch."

Cork and Olive: We looked forward to HALF-BLOWN ROSE, as we enjoyed Leesa’s novel THIS CLOSE TO OKAY and this did not disappoint! We enjoy her writing style—a phenomenal writer!” There was much discussion about whether Vincent should have led her husband on, whether it was wrong for her to be with Loup before a decision about her marriage, and whether she should have reached out to Tully and his mother. No one liked Cillian's actions and would have preferred Vincent to end her marriage if she was going to go be with someone else. We discussed Vincent's relationship with her children and the growing relationship with Tully, who we loved. There was concern that Vincent spent more time on Tully with her children, although we know that she loved them - she just didn't share as much of herself with them. We all want an epilogue!! We agreed that we needed to know what Vincent decided. Some hoped she kicked both Cillian and Loop to the curb, stayed in Paris, and raised the baby herself. Some thought she might have both... We loved that she decided to just do whatever she felt— eat pastries, sleep during the day, do whatever her spirit felt, while she proces

sed this punch in the gut to her life.
We enjoyed the references to food, art, books, and music. It was SO brilliant that Leesa created Vincent's Spotify playlists. We were delighted to see videos and references to characters on @anchoismusic. What a great way to bring the book to life! C'est bon bon bon! We recommend this novel to those who enjoy travel, art, and passion.”

Menu: "Our menu featured foods referenced —wonderfully varied and not all French! Cranberry Meatballs and Mashed Potatoes, Chickpea Stew, Fig Jam and Cheese with crackers, Rosemary Flatbread with Hummus and Olives, Pain au Chocolat, Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, and of course, Champagne!

Sensational Seven of Appleton, Wisconsin, Literary Lovelies of Yonkers, New York Junior League of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Sensational Seven of Appleton, Wisconsin, Finer Things Book Club of Brentwood, California
THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK by Ellen Marie Wiseman (Kensington, 8/22)
The story about the Willowbrook State School, the Staten Island mental institution that shocked a nation when exposed in the 1970s as a dumping ground for unwanted children.

Sensational Seven: "We are fortunate to read this new novel from a favorite author! Once again, Ms. Wiseman has so eloquently written about another of our nation’s past social injustices. We compared our strong responses to the novel with other books with difficult topics. She has shed light on a piece of our history that is so important to learn about. Her take on Willowbrook through the eyes of sixteen-year-old, Sage Winters, was a riveting ‘page-turner.’ When Sage discovers her twin sister, Rosemary, was alive and had been institutionalized for years at Willowbrook; she courageously heads to the school to rescue her. We discussed our emotional responses in realizing that these atrocities occurred in our lifetime and in our country Our discussion centered on how the children’s parents felt after learning the truth of events at the ‘school.’ We were sad and horrified over Willowbrook, and had for the staff and media who were crucial to its closure. We felt grateful for the advancement in care and treatment of the mentally ill and incapacitated members of our society today.”

Menu: "Our take on related food/drink: White chicken chili, representing the colorless mush that residents at Willowbrook were served daily. We also drank Tequila Sunrises, a popular cocktail in 1972, using orange juice. In the novel, the nurses mixed medication in orange juice to keep the residents sedated. No meds were used by our book club- only tequila and grenadine in the OJ!”

Junior League of Kalamazoo: “We enjoy historical fiction and mystery and this was the best of both worlds!”Some members recently toured a State Hospital in Michigan and were able to compare what they learned with Willowbrook. Ellen Marie Wiseman joined us via Zoom to answer questions about how she researched the book and where the ideas came from— including the big twist. It was especially fun because she had been at the memorial at Willowbrook the day before and was able to tell us about meeting some of the doctors and attendants who helped to blow the whistle, per se. We discussed society during this time, and why it was often recommended for parents to place children in a place like Willowbrook. We discussed how parents could see their child in that state, not say anything- many of us agreed that during that time, people deferred to 'authority’ and took the doctors at their word. Today, parents question and challenge authority, especially when it comes to doctors and teachers. We agreed this was one of the saddest stories we had heard and had time wrapping our heads around the fact that while it’s a fictional story the setting, conditions, and many of the characters were real. We also didn’t see the twist coming (Ellen said that even her editor didn’t see that one!).”

Menu: "Pancakes and bacon, a build-your-own-oatmeal bar, and orange juice —spiked with champagne instead of sedatives, as in the book."

Literary Lovelies: "This was truly a fascinating book that led to a great discussion about mental health. We couldn't believe it was based on a true story! We all loved this fascinating story, and it was heartbreaking to know it was based on a real situation. The subject matter was difficult but we all enjoyed the historical fiction and somewhat true crime genre in this well-written and detailed novel. Wiseman graphically describes the school, where employees brutalize and demean their residents. It’s after a reporter sneaks into the facility— the journalist is Geraldo Rivera, who was instrumental in getting the facility rehabbed and shut down —that light is shed on these inhumane conditions. We discussed the women brought to this facility, mental health, and the management of those needing special care. It was terrible that couldn’t speak up for themselves, and that no one ever checked on them This dark and gritty story will stay with us for a long time—it was so interesting and led to a fabulous discussion. This is my first time reading this author and I will be looking for more of her books."⁣

Elizabeth's Book Chat, Frisco, Texas; Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey; North Wales Area Public Library; Pennsylvania
WHEN WE LET GO  by Rochelle Weinstein

A novel about mothers and daughters, loss and acceptance, the lessons that come from heartbreak, and the healing it takes to embrace the joy of a second chance.Elizabeth’s Book Chat: "A wonderful match We had a very lively discussion with author Rochelle Weinstein and the book was so well received. Everyone loved it! There were different elements of the story that each of us could relate to which made it even more interesting. The author's style of writing is genuine and heartfelt. As we read the words on the page, we also were able to actually feel the emotions. What was very interesting was when members asked Rochelle where the idea for the tree came from. The response kept everyone chatting for a while. Great interaction!”
Menu: Charcuterie board, lemon cake, and wine

Book Club Girls Sparta: “A new author to us, and this moving story was enjoyed by all. Many could relate to the protagonist's profound level of loss and trauma and how one moment in her young life altered her future relationships with those closest to her. Trauma, grief, mother-daughter, sister, family, forgiveness, strength, and courage were all key factors that resonated with our readers. We discussed the importance of self-care and women surrounding themselves with people they can trust and open up to, and give themselves permission to move on and heal. We enjoyed the mother/ daughter theme. Read this moving novel if you are looking for a story of mothers, daughters, first love, second chances, and the powerful bond of sisters. “

 

Menu: "Wine and chocolate for self-care, a summer picnic with farm-to-table foods, lemonade, tea, and homemade fruit pies, based on Avery's garden and farm."
North Wales Area Library Book Club: “A big THANK YOU! This book was excellent! The believable characters drew readers in, and the settings were easy to picture. Several interesting relationships and ways of dealing with loss were explored. It was a well-built novel with interesting situations about dealing with grief, family relationships, and trust."

Over-Readers Anonymous of Cumming, Georgia, Reckless Readers of Eastford, Connecticut, Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey, Wine Club with a Book Problem, Woodstock, Georgia
OVERKILL by Sandra Brown (Grand Central, 8/22)
A crime thriller in which a conflict of conscience between a former football star and an ambitious state prosecutor swiftly intensifies into a fight for their lives.

Reckless Readers: "OVERKILL satisfied the thriller need, romance desire, and contemplative fiction we all love. It was an excellent book club book that sparked much conversation: the question of whether or not we would want to stay alive, or if we could actually pull the plug ourselves on a loved one, after being in a coma with no brain activity. The characters had moral and religious struggles with this choice, and we empathized with them. We loved the spicy romance in the book —with much discussion about how much more of it everyone wanted—as well as the direction of the story. Eban’s character sent us on another heated conversation about entitlement and the evils that wealth can add to an already evil person’s being. Sandra Brown did an excellent job of making us hate him, and kept us page-turning hoping for a better outcome. Recommended for book clubs that enjoy a little romance in their thriller, and heavy discussion points."

Menu: "Our drink—the Blue Overkill (vodka blue Curacao, and pineapple juice) was tasty, like Zach, and packed a punch like Kate. Paired with charcuterie."

Over-Readers Anonymous: “We recommend OVERKILL for those who enjoy crime fiction, suspense thrillers, and contemporary issues with a little romance thrown in! Our book club has enjoyed several Sandra Brown novels, they're entertaining and also touch on issues that lead to a deeper discussion. We discussed the ethical dilemma at the foundation of OVERKILL and delved into medical ethics, end-of-life planning, the characters, the plot, the judicial system, and the celebrity spotlight. As we all have roots in the south, we liked the Atlanta, New Orleans, and North Carolina settings. OVERKILL was action-packed and easy-to-read."

Menu: “As a BBQ menu was suggested by the author, met at a local restaurant for pulled pork!." (see Sandra Brown's recipe)

Book Club Girls: "An enjoyable read with developed characters an incredible, setting, and suspense well paced throughout the book.  We discussed what we would do if faced with the same situation as Zach even though none of our members have had to face this situation. What many of us thought should have been a clear-cut choice, as we wove through the narrative we came to understand that there were so many layers to this that came into play that it wasn't as simple as we believed in the beginning. The most hated character was the villain Eban and although he is fictional, we agreed there are real people in the world like him. When you are so wealthy that you can make so many disastrous choices as a human with no consequences was highlighted. What would have happened to someone else who wasn't as wealthy? Also, we all agreed that no one really thought about Rebecca, until they were forced to, which led us to agree it was unacceptable for her to continue to be victimized in a way for so very long. But, if she was allowed to let go in the beginning, there wouldn't be as much of a plot line for the book. Loved the premise of the story, it gave lots of topics for discussion.

Menu: "We recommend bbq, pulled pork sandwiches, cole slaw, baked beans, and any tailgating type of foods that would be a nod to North Carolina and football."

Wine Club with a Book Problem: "OVERKILL is a good thought-provoking story. The topic of life support and having your affairs in order gave us a good discussion, and we enjoyed the setting of Atlanta since we live in the area. Former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Zach Bridger has MPA for his ex-wife, Rebecca, who has been placed on life support after a violent assault. Zach has kept Rebecca on life support for 4 years to honor her parent's wishes. The attacker, Eban, gets an early release from prison and Kate Lennon, a brilliant state prosecutor, is determined to put him back behind bars. If Rebecca were to die, Eban could be retried on a new charge: murder. Zach is asked to make an impossible choice: keep her on life support or take her off and put Eban back in prison. We discussed that no one really thought about Rebecca. Zach was concerned about how he would be portrayed by the media, her father keeping her alive to punish Zach, and Eban boasting how his father's money got him out of prison early and now he can bet back to partying. It was unacceptable to keep Rebecca on life-support for so long.

Menu: "There are many football analogies and football references throughout the book. We put together a Tailgate Football Menu: Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Balsamic Fig Infused Burger Bites, Wings, Homemade Salsa & Chips plus Guacamole, Buffalo Chicken Dip, Pizza Pepper Poppers."

Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York; Page Ladies, Cleveland, Ohio; Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; CT Lit, Bridgeport, Connecticut; Kings Chapel Book Club  Arrington, Tennessee,
ALL MY RAGE by Sabaa Tahir (Penguin Teen, 3/22)

A contemporary novel about family and forgiveness, love and loss, in a sweeping story that crosses generations and continents.

Reading Between the Wines: "We all enjoyed the book and thought the author did a wonderful job of creating flawed and 'real' characters that we grew to care about."This was a great match for our club. Our discussion included immigrants' struggles to preserve their culture while trying to achieve the American Dream, the nature of generational trauma, the opioid crisis, and the role of faith in people's lives- so many things to discuss! We became invested in the characters of Noor and Sal and the traumatic events that they and their families, experienced impacted us, and provided a lot of jumping-off points for discussion. Watching their growth throughout the novel gave it a hopeful ending. We loved this book and were fully invested in these characters, and reading it was a very emotional journey. Recommended to clubs that enjoy books discussing contemporary themes, strong characters, and emotional reads.

Menu: We met at a local Indian/Pakistani restaurant to enjoy food discussed and eaten in the novel: chai tea, poori, halwa, Chicken Kashmiri, and paratha, among other dishes!

Page Ladies: “We went in expecting a contemporary story about friendship and forgiveness but what we got was so much more. Thank you, Sabaa Tahir, for sharing this devastating but absolutely beautiful story with us! This is a powerful story that affected each of us differently. It's one that will stay with us for a long time. Until The Fight Salahudin and Noor were more than friends; they were family. Now, Sal is struggling with keeping his family's motel afloat as his mother's health fails and his father loses himself to alcoholism. Meanwhile, Noor is working at her uncle's liquor store and hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him and Juniper forever. Sal and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst. This is an emotional and moving story about friendship, forgiveness, and heartache; it’s like taking a deep dive into a pool full of emotions. Grief, betrayal and forgiveness, loss, rage— you will feel every single one and more in this book. No one from our book club was able to finish this book with dry eyes. There are so many topics that were brought up and all were not easy to discuss: death, drugs, prejudice, and physical abuse. The writing is absolutely wonderful—Sabaa Tahir is a fabulous storyteller. She has a way with words that touches each of her readers.“

Get Woke Book Club “Members arrived with books displaying colorful post-it tabs, which visually reflected the common greeting, 'there is so much to think about in this novel!A group of mothers and grandmothers very much enjoyed the novel by a young adult author and its detailed and realistic picture of the struggles that immigrants face in relocating to the United States and of the family traditions and secrets that follow the immigrants to their new home. The culture and religious traditions of Pakistan were vividly described in an engaging storyline and beautiful prose. The main plot follows the lives of two Pakistani teens, who are struggling with school, personal tragedies, and love. They are surrounded by other well-drawn characters who add depth to the story. We discussed the many plot lines and themes: diversity, forgiveness, hope, family relationships, communication, secrecy, and loss. Tahir fills the novel with music, probably an excellent technique for adolescent readers—they can easily relate to the messages and emotions through familiar songs.  Noor uses songs and their lyrics to help cope with the conflicts in her life. 

Members shared selfies with short reflections:  “Music plays a role in helping us deal with life’s adversities.*  When is a relationship worth salvaging?  *Fortunately forgiveness does not have an expiration date. It waits and always hopes to be the last word. *Peeling through the complicated layers of life we can see, appreciate and begin to understand one another. * One of my favorite quotes ‘Great passions grow into monsters in the dark of the mind; but if you share them with loving friends they remain human, they can be endured.’ * Tahir effectively introduces sections with lines from  Elizabeth Bishop's poem, “One Art.  Many characters ‘lost’ things: family, money, businesses, dignity. A lesson we all may need is that losing isn’t always bad.: 'the art of losing’s not too hard to master’ *While keeping a secret is meant to protect someone at some point, keeping that secret might be doing more harm.”

CT Lit Book Club: "We’ve been exploring new genres, and we enjoyed ALL MY RAGE, a heartbreaking story that touches on a lot of sensitive topics which gave us plenty to discuss.ALL MY RAGE introduced us to Pakistani culture. This young adult story follows two Pakistani teens growing up in a small town in California and the grim realities of their American dream. Even through difficult times their cultural norms held them together as a family, even if not by blood, the young adult characters are each facing their own struggles—the death of a loved one, racism, alcoholism, drugs, abuse— they are navigating grief, failure, and forgiveness, and must ultimately lean on one another to make sense of the chaos they are facing. It was shocking to imagine our younger selves in situations like these and we spent time reflecting on how the kids navigated various situations. One that stood out is how Salahudin and Noor dealt with the drug bust, and how their relationship persevered. We also discussed how Salahudin came to terms with his abuse. We recommend ALL MY RAGE for clubs learning about other cultures, family drama, and historical fiction."

Kings Chapel: “Thank you for the chance to read this insightful novel. We had a fabulous discussion and I think it was good to read outside our usual genres. This is a heart-wrenching story about two teens from Pakistani families living in Juniper, California, dealing with tough circumstances, basically all by themselves. We don’t read much YA, It was out of the comfort zone for most of the ladies. but the tough topics represented in this story, such as grief, alcoholism, physical abuse, and racism, were easier to handle in the Young Adult format. Understanding why the characters made the choices they did was something we discussed quite a bit. As teens, they made decisions that were wrong but for the right reasons and it was interesting to get in the minds of these teens and try to understand why. As parents, it was hard to read at times, feeling so sad for these kids who have had such a hard life. But seeing them grow and learn from mistakes and stand up for others, gave the book a nice redemption quality in the end. Recommended for groups that enjoy YA coming of age and social justice." 



Reckless Readers, East Lyme, Connecticut, Chilly Thrillies, Tulsa, Oklahoma;
Lit Ladies Read, Melbourne, Florida; Thrillers by The Book / Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas;
Thrillers by The Book / Costa Mesa, California, CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut recommend:
THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur 7/22)
Paris Peralta is suspected of killing her celebrity husband, and her long-hidden past now threatens to destroy her future.

Reckless Readers: An excellent match! Everyone was excited to talk about the twists. We had much to discuss with THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK. Members were messaging before we met, needing to talk about the book as they were finishing it. It was like a month-long meeting, behind the scenes! Usually, if continuous discussion is prompted, the book was a hit. To say the book was twisty is an understatement. This book was twisty than a country back road! A few of us seasoned readers predicted the big twists, but most of us were surprised and shocked. Together, we all needed to unload about the horrendous mothering and terrible situations that Joey was put in throughout her childhood. All of the women in our group are mothers, which makes the book hit us so much harder. But the book wasn’t just about sexual abuse and trauma. There is a high-profile murder that could potentially unearth secrets that need to be kept hidden. The conversation got animated when we discussed Joelle's charge with murder, and there was much discussion about the relationship between Ruby and Joey. As mothers, we found it hard to imagine how Ruby could treat Joey the way she did and put her in such horrible situations. It was heartbreaking and disturbing ."

Chilly Thrillies: “Thank you for giving our group the gift of a 5-star read, a perfect match! We were engaged from start to finish and loved how much there was to discuss. It had the thrills of a book with great character development and storyline. We discussed narcissism and how it affects relationships, specifically parent-child, how the way you are raised affects your instincts and perspective of others, fight or flight and how we would react in certain scenarios in the book, sexual abuse, and its long-term effects, age gap relationships and how people can be evil, but the 'lesser evil.’ We debated which storyline in the dual timeline was more action-packed—something hard to accomplish. Normally, we’re more interested in one storyline, We each were able to predict one of the twists, but we're stumped on the others and loved that there was more than one twist revealed. I was so impressed, I read Hillier’s JAR OF HEARTS. Recommended for those who enjoy a page-turning thriller with complex characters that you root for."

Menu: We made a Filipino Chicken Adobo recipe similar to what Paris makes towards the end of the book (she used pork instead of chicken). We were inspired by her description of how learning to cook was so special when she was going through such a dark time.

Lit Ladies Read: “We enjoyed this twisty, thriller/mystery. and had a very lively discussion! We had so much to discuss. We enjoyed the storytelling, shifting between past and present. and different points of view. This really helped to fully develop the characters. Although some predicted twists, we were still engrossed in the story and wanted to see how things played out.
“Our discussion centered around the characters and their relationships. One of our favorites was that between Jimmy and Paris and the highlight of our discussion was the relationship between Paris/Joey and Ruby. We disagreed about how adult Paris should have handled Ruby and decided that we had to agree to disagree about our feelings towards Paris, but we all agreed that this book was a hit for our group. The mystery is multi-layered, with deep characters. Many members put other books by this author on their ‘to be read’ list."

Thrillers by the Book Club, DFW: "This was our best GalleyMatch, perfect for our group and for book clubs that like dark and twisted mysteries“We all loved how the book started with a very intriguing and captivating scene Joey’s background was very interesting and her relationship with her mother was so toxic. There are a few mysteries in the story. Besides trying to find out if Paris murdered her husband, we’re also trying to work out Paris’ past, how did she go from living with an abusive unstable mother, who is now in prison, to living a wealthy life married to a famous celebrity? I enjoyed Paris’ past the most I loved the intensity in the chapters that focused on Paris’ childhood and upbringing. Ruby, her mother, was such an intriguing and complex character—a terrible mother, self-centered and irresponsible, which caused Paris a lot of pain and uncertainty. While a few members predicted the twist, it didn’t take away from the enjoyment of this dark and suspenseful story.”

Thrillers by The Book, Costa Mesa: “This was an excellent pick for our club! The majority liked or loved this one! Some said it was one of their favorite picks of the year. Many of the members enjoyed the mystery of learning about the murderer in the end, and the alternating timelines of the female main character. There were a variety of opinions about who committed the crime.”

CT Lit Book Club: "This was the perfect match for us! We have been craving a thriller and this was on all of our anticipated release lists. We all enjoyed the book, and were so excited to have a chance to preview it! We discussed how jam-packed this book was with plot points. There was much to hold your attention and give you room to try and predict what would happen. We loved how creative Hillier is— there is one scene in specific that was so creative and will leave us remembering the book forever! (hint hint, ice skates). Half of us had read another book by Hillier, and we all agreed that we want to read more Hiller titles."


The Ladies of Autumnwood, Grand Isle, New York, Mom and I Book Club of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, r
ecommend:

THE MATCHMAKER'S GIFT BY Lynda Cohen Loigman (St. Martin's Press, 9/20/22)
 An intergenerational story about two women—a grandmother and granddaughter—who share the same incredible gift: the ability to identify soulmates

The Ladies of Autumnwood: We loved THE MATCHMAKER’S GIFT! Reading about Raskin’s pickles and the knish shops brought back wonderful memories of shopping at a pickle store in lower Manhattan barrels with barrels on the sidewalk and enjoying a great knish. These memories, among other topics, helped to round out our animated discussion last night. Members didn’t know much about ‘yentas’ or matchmakers and their role in creating Jewish courtship relations. We enjoyed learning about the bravery of the young girl, who beyond the fact that she was Jewish opened our eyes to the challenges of women, not unlike what some have to endure to break that glass ceiling today."
Menu: “We enjoyed Challah and red wine, and took home jars of pickles that I designed with a Raskin’s label.”

My Mom and I: “This pick was perfection. Not only did it match our love of magical realism but we agreed it’s the best book we’ve read this year. You found the perfect book for us!”
“We discussed magic, love, strong women, lovable characters, and the absolute beauty of the writing. We recommend this book to those who enjoy magical realism, foodie fiction, historical fiction, and women’s fiction. The author wrote a book that we treasure and we’re raving about it to everyone. This is a book that you feel like hugging at the end. We absolutely loved it. It’s a gem! “

Menu: "A smorgasbord! We had a blast capturing foods mentioned in the book lox and capers, cornichons— we decorated pickle jars with ‘The Pickle King’, as in the book. We had magical color-changing butterfly tea, as we wanted some magic to go with the story, and chocolate babka for dessert, like our beloved characters baked.

St. Louis Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri;  Mom and I Book Club, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania;  Pittsford Moms Book Club, Pittsford, New York, and Port Wine and Book Society Readers, Port Washington, Wisconsin recommend:
OTHER BIRDS by Sarah Addison Allen (St Martins, Press, 8/30/22)
A novel about a young woman who claims her deceased mother's apartment in an island town, where she meets she meets quirky and secretive neighbors.

St. Louis Women’s Book Club: "A great match! We felt like this was the perfect mix of themes, giving us questions and a variety of topics to discuss. Having an arc made us feel like ‘VIPs’ to the publishing process. This novel was cozy, nostalgic, and heartfelt! Allen’s characters help redefine the word ‘family’ in the most beautiful way. We discussed the definition of home and chosen family, food as a love language —and inspiration for potlucks for book club!! The setting—so realistic and magical, the imagery of the birds and the meaning. OTHER BIRDS takes you on a magical journey of youth, delicately balancing both beauty and sadness. We recommend this book to clubs who are fans of magical realism. It was fuzzy, cozy --the perfect happy read."

Menu: "We made amazing foods to match the book: cornmeal air-fried tomatoes, potato chips on Hawaiian rolls, Mac & cheese, cornbread, Palomas, and marshmallow popcorn."

My Mom and I: "Thank you for a rare opportunity to preview our favorite author’s new book! Sarah Addison Allen's first novel GARDEN SPELLS introduced us to our favorite genre, magical realism. I saved the book for the perfect moment and then tore into it. After waiting eight years for her new book I knew I’d read it too quickly and, that’s what happened We are Italian and loved the ‘found family’ theme and 'food is love' philosophy running through the novel. We enjoyed the foodie talk, animals, ghosts, and magical elements. All characters and storylines were interesting and mysterious; sometimes beautiful, but sometimes ugly but always interesting. Several big reveals had us slack-jawed!

While OTHER BIRDS is a little sadder and darker than her previous works, the magic and the love and the beauty left the reader with a love of the characters and a belief that as the characters live beyond 'the end' of the book all turned out well for them. And you will want that because you will be left loving nearly everything about OTHER BIRDS! We recommend this to those who like magical realism and foodie fiction."

Menu: "Cornmeal marshmallow dishes based on a character: Fluffernutters (marshmallow whip and peanut butter sandwiches), tamale pie stuffed peppers, cornmeal sugar cookies, and marshmallow-flavored lip balm as a keepsake."

Pittsford Moms: "We had so much fun with OTHER BIRDS! We loved this found family story and all the special characters! The novel was a good fit for our club. We try to switch up genres/authors and most members like books with some magic realism elements. We felt it was an easy read and generally flew through the book - Thanks! kept our attention. We loved the story of found family, the characters, and their backgrounds. Books with paranormal/magic realism can be hit or miss for most members but they worked well with this story and added background and historical context for many of the characters. We had a great discussion about the twists and the characters' diverse backgrounds— we would have liked a little more depth to some characters that had very traumatic backgrounds. We recommend OTHER BIRDS to groups that enjoy a touch of magic realism and found family stories!”

Menu: "S’mores bars— the story takes place on Marsh Island and all restaurants in town have something marshmallow on their menu.” 

Port Wine and Book Society: "A great match for our club! We recommend this enchanting story written from the heart, with interesting characters and subplots.”Zoey was such a delightful, open and honest young character— we all adored her. We liked how the story unfolded by hearing different characters' viewpoints in each chapter. The Dellawisps added fun and interest, some of us thought they may have stolen Charlotte's money.  We loved the descriptions of Mallow Island - we live in a small tourist town in Wisconsin and really identified with that. The highlighted passages in Lizbeth’s copy of Sweet Mallow were ironic because she didn't live her life according to any of them - she was so stuck in the past it literally killed her. We enjoyed a unique story, quirky characters, and the theme of food as friendship/love."

Menu: “The detail around food was great! We  made several dishes with corn or cornmeal to celebrate it: Polenta and shrimp, fresh corn salad, corn dip and corn chips, and popcorn.”

CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut; Page Ladies, Cleveland, Ohio; KU Endowment, Lawrence, Kansas; and Girls Clubhouse, Auburn, California recommend
MIRROR GIRLS by Kelly McWilliams (Little Brown, 2/22)
A gothic horror novel about twin sisters separated across the color line after the murder of their parents (YA historical fiction/  magical realism/fantasy).

CT Lit: “MIRROR GIRLS was a great discussion starter and the perfect book to read with a group. It took us out of our comfort zone and was eye-opening, a reminder that segregation is not so far in the past. We are transported to the South—and blatant racism —which as a group of white women living in Connecticut, we don't have experience with. We follow twin sisters Magnolia and Charlie, separated at birth—one raised as Black in New York City and one raised as white-passing in the Deep South— who learn the secret everyone has kept from them. The novel portrayed how indoctrinated people were, and in some cases ready to push racism aside when it would benefit them. We discussed how Charlie's view on life differs after growing up in the more liberal Harlem and compared it to growing up in Connecticut and traveling in different areas in the United States. We recommend this book to clubs that enjoy Brit Bennett's THE VANISHING HALF.”

Page Ladies: "We all enjoyed this historical fiction with a paranormal twist that is both heartbreaking and beautiful. The book offered many different topics, generating a nice discussion: the time period, the girls as individuals, their different upbringings and when they came together, the decision to separate them and not tell them about each other, and much more! A wonderful story about twin girls Charlie and Magnolia who were separated after their parents died for love across the color line and have no idea the other exists. Magnolia. raised in Georgia, is the white heiress to a cotton plantation. Charlie, raised in Harlem with her Nana, is a young Black organizer. When Charlie's grandmother falls ill, they return to Georgia. When the girls do meet Magnolia discovers her reflection has disappeared. They couldn’t be more different, but they will need each other to put the hauntings of the past to rest, break the mirrors’ deadly curse, and discover the meaning of sisterhood in a racially divided land. Seeing the girls come together to create that sisterly bond was wonderful, as is the writing, and pacing. The curse and the ghosts added an interesting twist to the story.”

Girls Clubhouse: "We all enjoyed MIRROR GIRLS and we tried to capture the supernatural aspect of the book with mirror images” Charlie and Magnolia both born in the South but separated at birth live separate lives but face the double threat of racism and ghosts. We discussed how ‘Colored Town ‘is equally foreign to both girls, despite being born there; contrasting with where they were each raised. Magnolia knows the rules of the general area, while Charlie knows how things are done —how stories are told, some traditions. The concept of the veil as the place between this world and the afterlife was used by the author also as the place between the white world and the colored world, which made this gothic story much more intriguing than if it had been singularly used. This forces both girls to examine who they are and what they are willing to live with. Members enjoy supernatural books, and the idea of ghosts to help guide the characters was appealing. We found it to be a ‘light’ supernatural read. We recommend to clubs who enjoy gothic young adult novels."

KU Endowment: "Everyone loved the book. Some members were pleasantly surprised by the way supernatural elements were combined with social commentary and realistic events. The author was able to shine a light on the atrocities of slavery and segregation without being heavy-handed and shows us a playbook for fighting back through the strong and determined sisters, Charlie and Magnolia. The past can haunt us but that doesn't mean it has to control us, and love will conquer hate. One member discussed the book with her 86-year-old mother, who shared memories of her experiences during segregation. We all felt hopeful and inspired by the book and loved the characters. We talked about what it would be like not to know your origins and what would inspire someone to fight against things they know are wrong when it could cost them everything. We recommend to those that enjoy strong characters, historical fiction, and being inspired."

The Revivals Book Club The Revivals, Germantown, Wisconsin; Famished for Fiction, Plano, Texas; Zoom-Chilly Thrillies, Tulsa, Oklahoma
THE CICADA TREE by Robert Gwaltney, Jr.
A novel about an 11-year-old, whisky-drinking, piano prodigy who encounters a wealthy family of supernatural beauty.

The Revivals: “Have we missed out on a genre of remarkable books or were we gifted a gem in a genre we might not have read? The debut novel THE CICADA TREE soared to the top of the 2022 best reads. We dare you not to highlight dozens of richly written sentences; our galleys are filled with colorful post-it notes. The discussion questions gave deeper insight into the themes and allegories we hadn’t considered. We agreed that the book fit into genres of southern gothic, magical realism, and coming-of-age. We explored biblical allegories: good and evil, Jesus, John the Baptist, Cain and Abel, plague, water, and fire. Once every 13 years, the cicadas emerge in tremendous numbers to mate and disrupt human life and comfort; some believe they hold our secrets. Gwaltney has a gift for bringing all together in an unforgettable book appealing to multiple genres and readers. We discussed how music and the song of the Cicadas featured prominently, and the writing allowed us to hear the music as the book’s climax approached. There are themes of coming-of-age, transformation, and rebirth. Gwaltney poetically foreshadows the storyline early as the story’s protagonist, a typical tween experiencing growing pains, insecurity, and self-recrimination sheds her childhood as a cicada does. Triumphing over evil, the novel reaches an angelic and lyrical end. There are as many ways to love this book as there are to interpret it–we dare you to read it! We all loved this novel.”

Menu: Iced Tea, Autumn Apple & Feta Salad, Watermelon Salad, Feta, Mint; Skillet Cheddar Cornbread, Southern Pecan Praline Cookies, Coffee on a garden patio.

Zoom-Chilly Thrillies: We had a great time reading and discussing THE CICADA TREE, a wonderful match that pushed us out of our comfort zone, with its unique blend of genres— historical fiction, fantasy, and mystery. This was a unique story! We agreed it was unpredictable and gave much to discuss. Some words members shared to describe the writing style and story were: Gothic, descriptive, imaginative, twisted, mystical, humorous, innocent, and unpredictable! We were excited about the discussion and most finished it quickly-after the halfway point, unable to put it down.

"We discussed symbolism, class differences, racism, religion, southern culture, character motivations, and family relationships. and how the main character was looking up to a family she aspired to. We discussed our childhood oddities, raised by the mention of the character's liking the feel of pain. We enjoyed that it was told through a child's lens, while dark but the child's perspective ensured curiosity and humor even when horrifying things are happeningThe writing is creative and descriptive and made us think about things such as how you hear music in a new light. The ending was haunting and beautiful and there were many shocked reactions!

"We also discussed the movies or books we thought possibly influenced the author, including REBECCA, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and MEAN GIRLS., We are eager to read Gwaltney's next novel!"

Menu: “Iced tea was sipped!"

Famished for Fiction: “A wonderful opportunity to read a complex story with a bit of mystery and unexpected twists and turns. Our group is diverse, and open to new and different genres, and appreciated the opportunity to discover this book. We discussed the focus of music and its impact on the progression of the story. Music is a major theme throughout the piece, whether it is the music Mr. Mayfield had composed for his wife or the musical virtuosity of the Mayfield children. We explored the cicada's presence: cicadas are seasonal and burrow in the ground, so they are equivalent to all of the secrets that are buzzing around the town of Providence, connecting the Mayfields to Etta Mae and Analeise, and the link between their molting and the growing pains the main characters are experiencing.”

Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado; Books and Brew, Allendale, Michigan;  Carrollton Book Buddies, Carrollton, Texas;
BluStocking Literacy Society, West Allis, Wisconsin

THE CODEBREAKER'S SECRET by Sara Ackerman (Mira, 8/22)
A brilliant female code breaker and a pilot on a top-secret mission come together in this dazzling story of love and intrigue set during America’s darkest hour.

Ranch Readers: Our book club enjoyed this book as we read a non-fiction WWII book about codebreakers and many have traveled to Hawaii so both the theme and setting are familiar. The storyline was realistic and we enjoyed the dual timelines with relevance at the end of the book when the characters are planting a memorial garden on the plantation. We discussed our mother's vital roles during the war, such as working in a war plant, how women were disregarded and treated as second-class citizens, and the situations where the same treatment happens today.We discussed our Hawaiian travels: topography, lava fields, ocean conditions, and coffee plantations. Those that have visited the Mauna Kea Hotel described it. Recommended for book clubs that enjoy historical fiction and WWII stories.”

Menu: “Banana chocolate chip cake/ banana pudding topping, tropical fruit salad, Huli-huli Chicken.”

BluStocking Literacy Society: “
A perfect match! We enjoy historical fiction/mystery that pulls us in and we all anticipated the discussion. We discussed the timeline and connections between the two eras, and the uncertainty that women codebreakers felt reflected by Lu as she struggles to establish herself as a journalist. Isabel walked a line between expressing her intelligence and thoughts and second-guessing herself and stepping back. It was fascinating to consider women in a secret intelligence role and the obstacles they had to overcome.”
Menu: "
Wacky Cake, a classic chocolate cake born of necessity for WWII rationing.”

Carrollton Book Buddies: “A brilliant female codebreaker. An ‘unbreakable’ Japanese naval code. A pilot on a top-secret mission that could change the course of WWII. My book club loved THE CODEBREAKER'S SECRET! The dual timeline novel is set in Hawaii. We enjoyed discussing the amazing roles women played in World War ll. While most of us decided we'd have been secretaries, one member thought the radar plotter sounded like a fit. We appreciated that there were those that worked as mechanics, pilots ferrying planes, medics, and of course, the codebreakers! The Dungeon where the codebreakers worked and the men in charge were a hot topic-the smoke, the drinking, the snobbery, all appalling. Just the thought of approaching the stairs and entering drew lots of remarks! We read the author's explanation of the difference between codes and ciphers and concluded the codebreakers were brilliant! We discussed survivor's guilt, the way Germans, Italians, and the Japanese were treated here in the states, and men in power and misuse of that power. We appreciated the way the threads were all tied up by the ending, though a surprise. The stunning descriptions of the Mauna Kea Hotel and the surroundings have us all wishing for a trip to Hawaii. We appreciated the brilliant, unique roles of women in war."

Menu: "We met at tropical Tommy Bahamas restaurant for a chopped salad with shrimp, coconut shrimp, and Mahi Mahi Tacos. Tropical beverages included. Cloud Coconut Martinis and Jalapeno Margaritas."

Books and Brew: "The story takes place in 1943 and 1965. It's 1943, and Isabel Cooper, who has lost her older brother in the attack on Pearl Harbor, is working as a code breaker, solving Japanese naval codes. Isabel seizes an opportunity to solve codes in Hawaii to locate her brother’s friends and learn about his life. In Hawaii, she stumbles into a life-changing mystery. In 1965, aspiring journalist Lu Freitas is traveling to the Mauna Kea Hotel for its grand opening, when she befriends a famous woman. When her new friend disappears, Lu investigates and soon uncovers a missing link to the past. We discussed women in history, World War II, the relationship between the main character to her friend and her brother's friends, her internal struggle, and women's roles during the war. I was so grateful to have received this book early for my book club! I was so immersed in the characters and their story, I couldn't put it down! Five stars!"

Reading is My Cardio, Smithfield, Rhode Island;  Bookish Ladies, Coto De Caza, California; Next Chapter, Leesburg, Virginia
SIX DAYS IN ROME by Francesca Giacco (Grand Central, 5/22)
A young artist travels to Rome to heal a broken heart, where she confronts loneliness and intimacy, rage and desire in this debut novel.

Reading is My Cardio: "We adored this lyrical and atmospheric debut! It was refreshing to read a book with realistically flawed characters and where not everything gets tied up in a perfect bow. This character-driven story explores relationships in so many forms - family, romantic, and with one's self - and the writing is just beautiful. Truly a perfect book for summer, transporting us to Rome for a captivating six days. We discussed how this isn't a book with a lot of plot and yet it kept us interested throughout. We loved the writing and many of us highlighted passages that we shared and discussed, and the group also touched on whether we'd be able to travel solo as the main character did. Another subject that came up was how the narrative is almost stream of consciousness which some of our group enjoyed more than others. We recommend this book to clubs that enjoy being transported to another place and appreciate character-driven books about self-discovery."

Menu: "Italian-themed cocktail party featuring charcuterie, Aperol Spritzes, and a gelato bar for dessert."

Bookish Ladies: "SIX DAYS IN ROME was beautifully written We enjoyed the food and descriptions around Rome! We loved how the book was written in terms of description and character development. It was a lighter, summer read. We felt l the character had a lot to work out but she never quite figured out what it was so there were a lot of questions left up for interpretation."

Menu: Italian rosé, homemade flatbreads with Italian pesto, mozzarella, fresh basil, aged balsamic, and roasted tomatoes.

Next Chapter: “Everyone agreed that Francesca Giacco's writing was beautiful,—and it was fun to read her book looking for food and drink that members can make and enjoy at book club! Emilia heads off on a six-day trip to Rome—it was supposed to be a romantic trip with her then-boyfriend Michael. but that’s not possible as he is married! With six days in Rome, Emilia will have time to reflect on why it wouldn’t work, why she deserves better, and time to enjoy the food and wine on her trip. We discussed what we thought happened to Michael: we had differing opinions to whether he had died or was with someone else or married. During her trip, she reflects on her relationship with her father and brother, and has lots of yummy food and drink throughout. We were happy that she met someone new and Emilia Is able to focus on herself and her art. Her six days in Rome weren’t what she had planned when she booked the trip, but sometimes better things come out of bad situations. Ah, the magic of Italy! One of our members took her book to Rome and shared photos."

Menu: “We enjoyed Aperol Spritz cocktails, a charcuterie board, tiramisu, and wine-soaked grapes”.

Peoria Book Rack, Illinois, Thrillers by the Book Orange County, California, Novels N Latte, Hudson Valley, New York
THE GOOD SISTER by Sally Hepworth (St. Martins Press, 2021)
A psychological thriller about the lies that bind two sisters.

Peoria Book Rack: “We agreed it was fast-paced and a quick read. The story keeps you guessing as you try to figure out the family dynamic between sisters Rose and Fern. the journals, their relationship with the mom, the twists! We also discussed Hepworth's versatility as an author. She has a solid list of backlist books that many of us are excited to check out! We recommend for book clubs that enjoy family thrillers.”

Thrillers by the Book: “Everyone loves Sally Hepworth, and this was a favorite! A likable main character and a fun story. We talked about representation in books, and the importance of character-driven books, and how her writing style is relatable and easy to read."

Novels N Latte: “Perfect for our club. We love good twisted family dynamics, and this sister story gave us a lot to discuss, including Fern's autism spectrum and which was actually the good sister.”

Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey, East Lawrence High School Book Club of Trinity, Alabama, Reckless Readers of  Eastford, Connecticut, and North Wales Area Library Book Club, Pennsylvania
DARK AND SHALLOW LIES by Ginny Myers Sain (Penguin Teen, 2021)

A supernatural thriller about a teen girl who disappears from her small town deep in the bayou, where magic festers beneath the surface of the swamp.

Reckless Readers: The story hooked the teens— they enjoyed the love story and the witchy aspect, and our adult readers also loved the book. We included teen daughters who wanted to join, and teachers and librarians in the group who wanted to preview it before ordering for their locations. A few of them have not read YA books, so it was a nice and unexpected change for them. We liked the Southern setting, and how the author submerged us in Bayou. From gigantic gators ( Willie Nelson) to psychic abilities, shapeshifter, and Aurora readers, this book is a full experience. The end was shocking and fit the story. We recommend this book for those that enjoy a hint of magic within a southern setting.

Menu: "Southern delights mentioned in the book: Honey’s Pralines, Willie Nelson’s Gator Piss cocktail—with Midori, lime juice, rum, sweet & sour mix, and seltzer—Cajun wings and shrimp dip."

North Wales Area Library: “Our group had one of the best discussions we can remember!”This was an excellent selection and discussion. The book brought the Louisiana bayou setting to life. One member was raised in the area and she especially thought the setting description was spot on. The group wondered why the word ‘shallow’ was included in the title: The lies did not seem shallow. We debated the killer, books were pulled out and theories shared. The hurricane preparation made for interesting reading. We discussed why an outside investigation might not have happened. All said they would read another Sain book and looked forward to the next book in the series. We hope to have our adult group discuss DARK AND SHALLOW LIES with our teen book club! Our group rates books with 1-5 stars. The lowest rating in the group was 4.5! We recommend this book to clubs who enjoy reading outside of the box.”

ELHS Book Club: “Thank you for providing yet another wonderful book for our students! We discussed the setting bayous, swamps, cypress trees, alligators, shrimp boats and houses on stilts. The author did an excellent job painting a picture for the reader. We also discussed mental illness which is woven into the plot through a couple of characters via subtle behaviors and downright craziness.

Menu: jambalaya, gumbo, and pistolette rolls.

Book Club Girls: “Don't be turned away by the YA label, this book is for all ages. It was completely off our radar as far as genre, and many readers gave it five stars, and couldn't believe it was a debut novel. One member stayed up until 5 am to finish— she just had to know the end! The writing was fantastic. We discussed the book is marketed as a YA title, however, NONE of us are near that demographic We felt the characters could be aged up to the 30s and 40' and still make sense—they were just as vital to the storyline as the plot. We felt the novel touched on mystery and supernatural themes but also the deep-rooted impact of emotional trauma that shapes us. We discussed how keeping secrets buried for so many years by everyone caused so much heartache and pain. If truths were told from the start, what would the lives of the children have been like?? A great evening with lots of thoughtful discussions and fun had by all."

Menu: Hurricane Punch, crawfish, gator bites, cajun fried catfish, and cornbread.

Lit Ladies Read Book Club of Melbourne, Florida and Thrillers by the Book of Costa Mesa, California
THE YOUNGER WIFE by Sally Hepworth, (St. Martins Press, 4/22)
A new novel of domestic suspense that delves into a tangled web of family secrets, and lies.

Lit Ladies Read: "We loved this book and had a great discussion, which centered on the theme of perceived reality. We had a great debate about whether Stephen was actually an abuser or just misunderstood. The epilogue raised more questions than provided answers. Our group had varying opinions depending on which character’s perspective we were discussing. We all enjoyed the ambiguous nature of the ending and agreed it was very clever. It was a lot of fun to discuss our own opinions and debate what we believed to be the truth. Some of our members took the book at face value, while others questioned what we had read and what we believed to be the truth.

"We liked how the story was told with alternating points of view and followed along easily when the perspective changed. The book dealt with some serious topics but was written in a very light-hearted way that made it a quick enjoyable read."

Menu: “Heather would have been proud! We met at a country club,  in true Aston fashion. We had Mahi tacos and quesadillas in honor of Rachel and Darcy’s first date.”

Thrillers by the Book: "A perfect match! We’re big fans of Sally Hepworth! We loved the intriguing vibe the author created by not revealing right away who was involved in the accident from the opening scene. The story is based on many factors, dysfunctional family dynamics, abusive relationships, addiction, mental issues, and so many juicy secrets. We enjoyed Sally’s writing style and the characters she created. Sally has a way of making her characters very relatable and down to earth. We also enjoyed how she connected a piece of her real-life to one of the scenes in this book. Some of the secondary characters seemed to love Stephen but Heather and his kids suspect him of being abusive. The ending left us wondering if Stephen was in actual fact abusive. The women around him suffered a lot of 'accidents' but it’s never clear if they were really accidents or intentional. We recommend this title for book clubs that enjoy a family drama with a hint of suspense. Thank you for spoiling our book club!"

Page Ladies of Cleveland, Ohio, Bibliobibuli of San Diego, California, and HAH Reading Club of Kaukama, Wisconsin
THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY by Sherri L. Smith ((Penguin Young Readers, 2//20)
From the award-winning author of Flygirl comes this powerful WWII romance between two Japanese teens caught in the cogs of an unwinnable war.

Page Ladies: “Thank you for sharing this amazing, compelling, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking story about life in Japan during World War II. We were surprised by how much research went into it, and we are always interested in books that can teach us something. The story switches between Taro and Hana's perspectives so we see two sides of the story and what each experienced. Could we imagine being Hana, having to take care of the kamikaze pilots and then say goodbye to them, knowing that they will more than likely die? We talked about Hana and the pilot—how they felt at the beginning of the book versus the end— as well as the choices that surprised us and whether we would do the same. This was an emotional read and the pace moves well with the story."

Bibliobibuli: “Our members enjoyed THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY, and our chat with author Sherri Smith was especially enjoyable. The novel is a fictionalized account of young kamikaze pilots and the teen-aged girls who provided platonic camaraderie and emotional support to them during World War II. Smith employs lyrical prose to introduce the reader to war-torn Japan and the youth culture that rallied around Emperor Hirohito. We appreciated learning more about the Japanese perspective on World War II. Hana’s disparaging remarks about Americans made us realize that we had never heard from the youth of Japan about the events of the war."

HAH Reading Club: We really enjoyed THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY and its different perspectives on World War II We discussed how the novel reminded us of the current situation with the Ukrainian and Russian war. The author talked about remembering so it doesn’t happen again, and we discussed how emotional we felt about the abuse, propaganda, and conditioning that happened to prepare the civilians and boys for the war.
We compared how the reading of trauma and the emotional impact, ranges based on the age of the reader. We discussed the comparison of how being ready for death in a moment you can’t control, such as a reaction to an air raid, and the premeditated preparation of the pilots to body-crash was handled and how the author gave us both views. We also found how the invasion was perceived after all the preparations made to fight to the death as the expectation from the government. We recommend this novel to clubs looking for an emotional experience with a dive into other cultures."

Get Lit Book Club, Coto de Caza, California, and April's Book Chat, Frisco, Texas

THE STORIES WE TELL: Every Piece of Your Story Matters by Joanna Gaines (Harper Select . 11/8/22)
The first solo memoir from the Magnolia co-founder.

April's Book Chat: THE STORIES WE TELL sparked lively conversations and reflections among our members. Many members resonated with Gaines' experiences of racial hate and bullying, finding validation in their own experiences with mixed heritage. The book inspired us to consider journaling as a means of processing life's events and thoughts, and we appreciated the pearls of wisdom scattered throughout the text. While some members debated whether the book was self-help or memoir, others simply enjoyed it for what it was. We recommend this book to fans of personal development books.

We met at Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea Shops at Creekside in Frisco, Texas, a cozy spot with a welcoming atmosphere reminiscent of Gaines' own design style, making it the perfect location for our discussion."

Get Lit: "We’re all fans of Chip and Joanna’s and enjoyed learning more about her. Chip is so funny and Joanna always appears to be calm, so it was interesting learning about her childhood and the difficulties she faced.

“Everyone agreed the book was a fast read and we enjoyed getting to know Joanna and her story, earning about how she grew up, met Chip, how they started their business and raised children in a world that can be harsh sometimes. We discussed ‘growing up being ‘different’ than her classmates and how we overcame that. Some members found junior high to be difficult while others struggled in high school. We recommend it to those who enjoy memoirs/ nonfiction/self-help. Fans of Chip and Joanna should pick up THE STORIES WE TELL, and sit down to read it with some biscuits and jam as we did!”
Menu: “We made and discussed recipes from THE MAGNOLIA TABLE COOKBOOK! We enjoyed Joanna‘s famous biscuits, silo cookies, scones, and stuffed mushrooms. Joanna is gifted with her baking and decorating— such a unique individual."

Jensen Beach County Club's Womens Book Club of Florida,  The Wine Club With a Book Problem of Acworth, Georgia, and Blu Stocking Literary Society of West Allis, Wisconsin
THE JEWELER OF STOLEN DREAMS by M.J. Rose (Blue Box, 2/23)

A tale of two passionate women— a  famous jewelry designer who fights to protect her company and rescue the man she loves, and an auctioneer whose gifts reveal a secret that endangers her very life, 

Jensen Beach County Club:  “We loved the descriptions of the jewelry that Suzanne Belperron made and the majority of us had researched Suzanne's designs after reading the book.A good match for our book club. We enjoy historical fiction or books with strong women. This novel features a dual timeline— France, 1942, and New York, 1986. Suzanne is a sought-after jewelry designer in France and her longtime lover and business partner, Bernard has been arrested by the Nazis. Violine is an appraiser for an auction company in 1986 and has been approached by Paul Osgood about selling family antiques. While visiting his home, she discovers a hidden compartment in a vintage Louis Vuitton case containing WWII-era jewelry. Violine is gifted with learning the history and secrets of objects she touches, and their owners and realizes that the jewelry has a long and tragic history. Violine and Paul work together to discover the history of the case and the jewelry. We discussed how Dixie and Suzanne demonstrated this in their work for the resistance movement."

Menu: "French rose wine, croissants, olives, brie, baguettes with French butter, chocolate mousse, cheesecake, dark chocolate squares, and cappuccino."

The Wine Club With a Book Problem "THE JEWELER OF STOLEN DREAMS is a captivating and powerful story that grabs you from the first page— a good match for as we like historical fiction with strong women. We enjoy books in which we learn something new, and the story prompts us further investigate a topic—in this case, Suzanne Belperron, one of the most innovative jewelers of her time, and her jewelry designs. This intriguing story explored Suzanne Belperron's courage and those who participated in the French Resistance by helping Jewish families leave France. We liked the novel's alternating dual timelines—Paris 1942 and New York 1986—which link Suzanne and Violine, an art historian/appraiser with a  supernatural gift.  We noted that this is the first book we've read that involves psychometry.” 

Rose has written a beautiful and descriptive story. We recommend this book to those that enjoy magical realism, suspense, and World War II fiction."

Menu: "Brie, apples, Classic French Salad (romaine, tarragon, chives, walnuts with a lemon vinaigrette, Ina Garten's Bouef Bourguignon, Mashed Potatoes, macarons. truffles."

Blu Stocking: An excellent selection for our club. This story was fascinating and the psychometry was an interesting twist. We enjoy reading about real people in history within a historical fiction context. While the characters are placed in a fictional story, there is much to take away. Several of us did some research on Suzanne Belperron and her jewelry designs. We also like the alternating timeline. robust discussion. We discussed psychometry's 'unbelievable' aspect juxtapositioned with an equally 'unbelievable' period of history as the holocaust. Also, we talked about the courage and actions of people in this world that are so brave and committed even in the face of personal danger, as well as the variety of themes—determination, strength of character, hope, faith, and love in all its incarnations, lovers (Suzanne/Bernard/Jean), friends (Suzanne & Dixie) and love of country/places (France)”

Curious Book Club,  Frederick, Maryland; St. Louis Women’s Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri; First Saturday Book Club, Pensacola, Florida

PRACTICE GIRL by Estelle Laure (Penguin Teen, 5/22)
A novel about a girl who rejects her label and decides for herself who she is to the world—about reputation and double standards,

St. Louis Women’s Book Club: “The themes were fantastic and the character was so likable. This YA novel explores high school, sexuality, friendships, and relationships. The themes of finding first loves and figuring out who you are made for great conversation! We discussed how high school is portrayed in the media today— are students really doing drugs, alcohol, and sex, as much as they portray? The book was well written and it was easy to visualize the small town high school. There were great moments in the friendships and relationships that are good lessons for that demographic.

Curious Book Club: “It was fun to read a book we typically wouldn’t have chosen - we hadn’t even heard of this one!t’s a YA coming of age/romance that features an angsty teenager that is coping with the loss of a parent and being used by boys who she thinks care for her. The story focuses on the challenges of dating and sex in high school. We loved the friendship storyline that developed throughout the book. Although the main character is very angsty, the emotions were real and raw throughout the story.  We thought that the ending of the story was the most interesting! We loved that Jo was able to have a heart-to-heart with her mom and stepdad to build a better relationship with her family. We all were in favor of the guy she chooses in the end! l. Recommended for those who enjoy YA coming-of-age stories.”

Menu: We met at a diner because there was a diner in the story!

First Saturday Book Club: "We had a great discussion about PRACTICE GIRLan honest, moving YA read that should be in the hands of more teens. PRACTICE GIRL offers a strong look at what it means to participate in a relationship and the need for teens to understand the ramifications of sex and responsibility and dedication to relationships. The author writes with emotional depth—we feel everything Jo goes through, and we root for Jo to win at wrestling and life. It’s clever, charming, and poignant. 

We discussed teenage behaviors: that Jo was not responsible for Sam kissing her yet she is blamed, how girls need to have girl relationships so they have support, the importance of family, taking others into consideration while establishing boundaries, and understanding the relationship before sex. Also, that growing up and having friendships change is difficult but a part of growing up. We all enjoyed this coming-of-age novel, recommended for this for groups that enjoy YA lit with emotional depth."

Happy Bookers, Linn Missouri, Lit Ladies Read Melbourne, Florida, and St. Louis Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri; and Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York
WEYWARD by Emila Hart (St. Martin's Press, 3/23)

A novel weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries— a story of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world

Happy Bookers: “A gem of a book with resilient female characters is our favorite GalleyMatch to date.”- on a novel weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries— a story of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world, read with galleys from
“Hart has given us much to ponder in a most bewitching tale. Altha, Violet, and Kate will long stay with us for their resilience and fortitude. We agreed that witchcraft isn’t accomplished through spells, but by their connection to the world around them -— and that was most appreciated and enjoyed. We cheered at the comeuppance of the perpetrators who caused harm both physical and mental to the female characters. We discussed the plight and strength of women over the ages dealing with similar treatment. The three women characters were enthralling. The author wove the three timelines of the Weyward women’s lives together expertly. Their plight, resourcefulness, and special powers along with their ties to nature and their strength to survive amidst adversity and ill-treatment earn these characters a place in your heart. The short chapters breeze along while keeping the depth of the characters and story strong. Highly recommended by our group to fellow readers. The perfect fall read. The perfect anytime read! Cannot wait to read more from this author.”

Menu: Orton stew (chicken and rice soup) W pendant cakes(cupcakes), Witches sticks and twigs (fried tortilla strips), Cottage dip (cowboy caviar), Crow Bars (brownie bites), Insect Wings(corn chips), Graham Crackers(saltines and wheat thins), and Morgs(moon drop grapes)in a member’s backyard and woods for our book reenactments."

Lit Ladies Read:“ We loved everything about this book! This is a very compelling read that highlights the connection between women, family, and nature."
WEYWARD is a beautifully written story about the strength and resilience of three different women. The story is told in alternating timelines, in different centuries leaving the reader to wonder how these women are related. The Weyward women all face similar, yet different, hardships of violence, abuse, and expectations of society that they must overcome. The women all have a very strong connection to nature and find strength and inner peace through this connection. The alternating timelines advance the story and keep you wanting more. The descriptive language paints a clear picture, and we loved the alternating timelines—each character's story was compelling and gave a feel for what these women had to endure. We spent quite a bit of time discussing the treatment of women who were deemed ’weird’ throughout history. It is frightening to think that there was a period in history when women could be labeled witches and executed based on nothing more than conjecture and failure to conform to societal expectations. Altha's storyline, in particular really highlighted how ludicrous the idea of witchcraft really is and how scared people were of anyone who was different. Another hot topic was domestic abuse and how difficult it can be for abused women to escape their abuser. Both Kate's and Violet's stories dealt with physical and sexual abuse that required both women to find the strength to remove themselves from their situations. We recommend for those who enjoy stories about women finding their inner strength to overcome hardship.”

Menu: Witching Hour Cabernet Sauvignon and witch hat cupcakes.

St. Louis: "WEYWARD was intense, honest and deeply connected to today’s time The three timelines and main character add layers of interconnected themes and details. At first glance, these are very different women but ultimately all face similar situations. We discussed feminism and the growth of women throughout time, how the patriarchy impacts women’s abilities to make choices, and Nature vs nurture—these women all were born to be Weyward, not raised to be Weyward.
Recommended for those who enjoyed THE LOST APOTHECARY by Sarah Penner; three perspectives or time periods in stories; the power of nature; books about powerful women and the ability to be strong despite the circumstances and external environment. This book has some trigger warnings that I think all readers need to be extremely mindful of before reading (physical/verbal abuse, parental abuse, rape, pregnancy loss, abortion, jail).

Reading Between the Wines: “This book was a perfect match for our club. We all enjoyed this story of three women from the same family line at different points in time. There was so much to discuss here: our connection to the natural world, overcoming trauma, giving yourself grace, and the strength and resilience of women, feminism, women’s connection to the natural world, family legacies, and overcoming trauma We thought the author did a great job incorporating the interconnected stories of Althea, Violet, and Kate. Recommended to book clubs that enjoy women’s fiction, historical fiction with dual timelines, and a touch of magical realism.

Menu: "Food to honor the garden at Weyward cottage, including veggie crackers with garden vegetables, and basil cheese, roasted vegetable pizza, and fresh veggies with hummus. We also had blueberry scones with jam and tea and biscuits as a nod to the English settings in the book."

Longwood Ladies, Goshen, Kentucky and Colonies Book Club, Yorkville, Illinois
ANGELS OF THE RESISTANCE by Noelle Salazar ( Mira,/ HTP, 11/22)
A story inspired by true events, about courageous women who risked everything for their country, family, and each other

Longwood Ladies: “ANGELS OF THE RESISTANCE was a great book club book.We all loved learning about a neutral country. It was a new take on that era that we all really enjoyed! We discussed how much we learned about the World War II era, We talked a lot about and enjoyed the fact that it shined the light on a true sister act.  It was the first historical fiction I’ve read that took place in the Netherlands during World War II. It was a refreshing change to hear the trials from a neutral neighbor. The characters were easy to relate to and love and my heart was wrenched by their bravery and struggles. We fell in love with the characters —they were strong, intelligent, patient women right from the start and their growth and determination were astounding. We recommend ANGELS to those who enjoy historical fiction and reading about strong women! If you enjoyed THE LILAC GIRLS, ROSE CODE, or Salazar’s first book, FLIGHT GIRLS, you will enjoy this historical fiction. We all thank you immensely!”

Colonies Book Club: "Some members were in tears throughout this beautifully told story of two young sisters who risk everything for their homeland during World War II. Our members loved this book. Some comments: A heart-wrenching read that is full of tenderness, resilience, courage, brutality, and devotion. The author did a great job of opening our eyes to the hardships of living through Nazi occupation Salazar demonstrated how strong the bonds of sisters, family, and friends are in a powerful way. This story is told from the perspective of a young teenage girl and how innocence is lost through the actions necessary to fight the evil that ripped her country apart. We were unfamiliar with the occupation of the Netherlands and learned about their struggle with starvation and freezing during the last years of the war. We couldn’t imagine girls getting involved with the resistance and what they were willing to do for their country. We all felt the guilt that Lien carried throughout her life over her little sister's death and the catalyst that was for her to join the resistance. We loved the epilogue and the closure it gave us about all of the character

Literary Lovelies, Yonkers, New York; Reckless Readers, East Lyme, Connecticut: CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut
THE VILLA by Rachel Hawkins(St. Martin's Press, 1/23)
A gothic suspense novel set at an Italian villa with a dark history.

Literary Lovelies:" We all loved the book! This book has books within the book!”-“We discussed both storylines and if we found ourselves drawn to one story or the other. Susan loved the dual timelines and thought the Mari storyline felt like a movie! We also discussed whether we saw that Mark and Chess were together. A lot of people had thoughts on Chess! We decided she was either a Love or hate character. We also discussed if you have to like the characters to like a book. Chelsey thought the book reminded her of Rachel’s other books and talked about her distinct writing style. We loved how easy it was to read, and enjoyed the epistolary chapters that enhanced the story. We felt the book wrapped up a little quickly and we wished that Emily had stood up for herself a little more! But the Italy location was a favorite of ours as well as the slight gothic style of the Mari plot line. We recommend THE VILLA to clubs that enjoy dual timelines in beautiful settings! Thank you so much for this opportunity!"

Menu: "We meet virtually, but enjoyed some limoncello while reading the book! Emily and Chess are a little over-served on limoncello their first night in Italy."

CT Lit Book Club: This book had us in a heated discussion about what we would do if we were in the main character’s situation. We found ourselves in a coffee shop yelling about dead husbands and realized we probably should put our books on the tabble so other patrons see we are actually discussing a book!!
“We were excited to preview a Rachel Hawkins title! The majority of us have read THE WIFE UPSTAIRS and RECKLESS GIRLS, along with some of her Erin Sterling books.
We had high expectations for THE VILLA, as it is highly anticipated by the bookstagram community. Overall, we expected it to be more ‘thrilling’, but we enjoyed it and were enthralled wondering what was going to end up happening and how the two stories of what took place at the villa were going to bridge together. One member described her reading experience as the story ‘always having an air of suspicion to keep her intrigued.’ We really loved the setting of the villa in Italy and loved the throwbacks to the 70s! We recommend this book to those that enjoy drama, and books like BIG LITTLE LIES.’

Reckless Readers: "Everyone loved the book, rating it Hawkins’s best yet!"- “This is our second GalleyMatch for a Rachel Hawkins book, and we were very excited! Most members read THE VILLA in two sittings We could not wait to rant about the characters we hated, dissect the twists, and gush over the amazing setting. There was a lot of early chatter in the week before our meeting — those that finished it early could not wait to have our discussion.

The level of betrayal among friends was the biggest discussion. We loved the setting, the dual timelines, and the parallels between them. The twists were nonstop and unexpected, which kept us page-turning. The dual timelines made the story. Going from Emily & Chess presently staying at the Villa, to Mari in 1974, the reader gets the full picture of what really happened at The Villa Aestas. Both stories have parallels that are frightening. It seems that you can’t stay at the Villa without it taking someone from you. There are love triangles, friendship deceits, thrilling reveals, and murder to fit everyone’s appetite. It’s dark and atmospheric in ways we have never seen from Rachel Hawkins. She packed so many surprises into this book, but the last chapter is the biggest. There was a hot debate among the group on whether that last chapter was even necessary. How many twists are too many? We recommend if you enjoy big twisty thrillers that grip you until the end —add it to your preorder list! It's out in January, and will be on everyone’s hot list for 2023!"

Menu: “Italian lemon theme to match book: lemon basil pasta salad, lemon ricotta hot cheese dip, limoncello cocktails.”

Melanie's Book Club, Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Riverside Readers, Plain City, Ohio; Amy's Book Club, Boulder Colorado
A LIGHT IN THE FOREST by Melissa Payne (Lake Union, 2022)
An emotional and suspenseful novel about the weight of secrets and the healing power of friends and family.

Riverside Readers: “We loved the Ohio setting and although Crystal was a made-up town, we have been to similar small towns and could picture the intent while we read. We appreciated the fun and quirky characters with a hint of underlying mystery in the book. don't know. We discussed the small town, the stereotypes, and the reality, not all small towns in Ohio are like that but we knew why the author picked to use the stereotypical poor/mining town in Appalachia. The timelines coordinated well together with the flashbacks. The characters of the small town were unique and we liked how they interacted with each other—they balanced the trauma. The reader's guide for this book was great. Thank you! We love being introduced to new authors and this time it helped build a new small community of readers, as this is a new book club."

Amy's Book Club: "The setting drew us in, the characters moved us, and the story had us in its grip —and caused many of us to stay up way too late reading. Everyone loved the characters and felt invested in their stories, and wanted to know more about some of the more peripheral characters. We discussed, justice, bullies getting away with things, whether the law is involved or not, and how the town changed regarding violence toward the LGBTQIA+ community. We discussed the repetition of ‘running’ at the beginning and how it would have felt to be Vega just trying to escape and survive; the town dynamics and why it was mostly accepted that the Harrisons could bully who they pleased without repercussions — contrasted with the senseless shooting that took place the night before we met in Colorado Springs and whether we thought there would or could be justice.
We discussed which of the lovable/heroic characters we enjoyed the most and whether Vega was a hero or a victim;, the pacing of how quickly Vega developed community in Crystal, secrets and why they should be kept or told; our reactions to Vega checking Instagram and our internal screamings at her of what we wanted her to do, the town's support of Eve, and what would happen next for all of them. We recommend A LIGHT IN THE FOREST to book clubs that enjoy complicated relationships and a multi-decade mystery to unravel."

Melanie’s Book Club:" We loved the opportunity to preview A LIGHT IN THE FOREST. We are reading another Melissa Payne book this month, as a result! Everyone had positive comments and the book made for great conversation. One member who is stingy with book ratings gave our selection 5 stars. This is a thoughtful, well-written book that discusses real-life issues with great character development. A main discussion point was the different social issues addressed in the book and that the author didn't 'preach' about them. Our group has many teachers and nurses in it and this made an impact on us, especially since we see these issues in the lives of our students and patients. We appreciated the character development and that through the different points of view, we were able to put pieces of the puzzle together before Vega did, yet it didn’t take away from the mystery. This book is a must-read! We look forward to seeing if her other books have a similar writing style and theme."

Madame Woods Book Club of Wiscasset, Maine, and Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey
THE WAYS WE HIDE, by Kristina McMorris (Sourcebooks, 2022)
A sweeping World War II tale of an illusionist whose recruitment by British intelligence sets her on a perilous, heartrending path.Madame Woods: “This book changed the way some of our readers perceive historical fiction. We were amazed at the authors’ ability to weave real-life events into an intricate and complex story. McMorris grabbed our attention with her latest novel, based on true facts This character-driven novel has elements of romance and suspense with a bittersweet ending. The novel begins with the main character Fenna whose life was significantly shaped by a stampede on Christmas Eve. Her perseverance from childhood helped her maintain her determination and profound instinct to get through life’s challenges along the way. Fenna, an intelligent character, is shaped by life events and uses those experiences to maneuver through challenges. This novel has elements of history and fiction interwoven in a way that makes the reader feel as though they are right alongside the characters.
We discuss the intricacies of the story and how relatable the main character was. McMorris thoughtfully and seamlessly transitions from a story of romance, into a detail-oriented spy novel, and keeps the reader o n the edge of their seat in anticipation of what direction the story and characters would go next. She challenges the reader to keep up with current and past storylines, all while inserting historical events, distracting the reader - they are well intertwined into the characters' lives and the book’s storylines. THE WAYS WE HIDE offers a variety of themes that would appeal to a large readership. So many beautiful moments, even in the last chapters of the book, that offer a sweet and real conclusion.”Book Club Girls of Sparta: "We enjoyed reading about a part of history we did not know of.Most of us were unaware of the Dutch involvement in the resistance or hadn't heard of this chapter of history where women recruited into the resistance worked on inventing escape aids that were hidden in things like games, and the hiding of clues and maps in ordinary objects was interesting to learn about. The resounding takeaway was the fact that so many people risked everything to help the resistance, to help other humans stay safe. Many questioned whether they would be as brave, especially being a woman. We found the most connecting part of the story was Fennas; bravery, and fearlessness even though she had deep trauma from the fire. We recommend THE WAYS WE HIDE to groups interested in historical fiction about new pieces of World War III history and strong female protagonists."Menu: Tea and speculoos cookies.

Brunch & Books Club, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Literary Fires Everywhere, Cortland Manor, New York
THE BODYGUARD by Katherine Center, (St. Martin's Press, 7/22)
A romantic and humorous romance about a bodyguard, and the movie star she's hired to protect, as they work to keep things professional under crazy circumstances

Brunch & Books: “We discussed the main character’s growth. Everyone enjoyed the love story, but seeing how the character grew into herself from start to finish was what really stood out. She gained confidence and self-respect that she didn’t have at the beginning and that really resonated with members. The discussion questions prompted a good conversation that brought to mind parts of the story we might not have discussed.
I Ioved this fun and funny book with every piece of my heart. It was my first Katherine Center novel and it felt as if I was sitting with a BFF listening to her tell e this hilarious and heartwarming story. 10/10! The Author’s Note alone is worth 5 stars. Don’t skip it! Recommended for those who enjoy funny, happy love stories! We’re so appreciative of the opportunity! “

Literary Fires Everywhere: "We all enjoyed this book. I am definitely not a regular rom-com reader— I usually find myself rolling my eyes at plots that make others swoon— but I really did love this book. It’s super cute, engaging, and the characters feel real. Even the setting popped right off the page! Definitely recommend grabbing this one!

Hannah has been hired to be a bodyguard to Jack, a Hollywood burnout who would prefer not to have a bodyguard. The pair have palpable chemistry, and I quickly found myself rooting for them. We are not huge romance readers and we’re all pleasantly surprised that it was both fluffy and deep, a un reads with a bit of drama. We all loved the touches and the author’s descriptions. (The Bush steak knives)."

Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado;  and Bookish Ladies,  Coto de Caza, California
HESTER by Laurie Lico Albanese (St. Martin's Press, 10/4/22)
A vivid reimagining of the woman who inspired Hester Prynne, the tragic heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and a journey into the enduring legacy of New England's witchcraft trials.
Get Woke: "HESTER’s message empowered us! As Laurie Lico Albanese writes, Hester Prynne is ‘a heroic woman who defies powerful men and vengeful villagers by wearing the symbol of her shame like a badge of courage.’ Heroic women! May we be them and may we raise them!”A major symbol, incorporating the books' themes, was  Isobel's sewing skill and her ability to design and stitch beautiful patterns and scenes that revealed emotions and contained hidden messages.
Each member of the book club was asked to bring a bottle of wine (or another beverage of choice), containing a label that could reflect a 'hidden' message or theme of the story. Our discussion involved each of the members presenting her wine and describing the label, revealing aspects of the novel. These included PROPHECY WINES— The label’s images relate to the supernatural world, and scenes with shooting stars. Isobel struggles to accept her power, and the woman on the label exhibits power.*TEMPTATION AND EVE—Depicts Eve tempting Adam. Isobel’s community shuns her as a witch when she becomes pregnant. EVE elicited discussion on the Bible story – Isobel notes its message about untrustworthy women. GNARLY HEAD WINES—summarizes many characters' mental states: Hawthorne struggles with his family history of witch trials. Isobel struggles with her artistic creations and powers. *KALEIDOSCOPE:— Isabel’s gift enables her to create beautiful designs and messages on clothing and understand others’ emotions. WITCHING HOUR: summarized the novel’s mystery, fantasy, excitement, and passion.
Menu: A ‘community rice bowl’ is symbolic of the support and encouragement women shared in the novel. Member brought ingredients. Along with the theme of wine, dessert bars were labeled ‘Primitive Nuts’: many characters reflect this title!
We  also shared a representation of each member’s name created by a woman with synesthesia.”
Ranch Readers: "We were intrigued by the premise of imagining the woman who inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne's protagonist, Hester Prynne, in his iconic novel, THE SCARLET LETTER, In Hester, they meet -- Nathan is a young struggling writer, who is haunted by his ancestor's treatment of the witches of Salem. and Isobel is a young wife, who recently immigrated from Scotland, and has been deserted by an opium-addicted husband who left her destitute. Isobel supports herself by creating exquisite embroidery and also through the kindness of others in town. She has synesthesia-a sensory phenomenon in which she sees letters and sounds expressed in colors. Isobel learns at an early she to hide this ability so that she would not be called a witch, but she uses her extraordinary skill to create beautiful work. We agreed that the book's language was very descriptive and enthralling and we had a long discussion about our own creative processes that have enriched our life.

We thought character of 'Hathorne' -- what the author calls Hawthorne-- could have been developed a bit further as he seemed shallow and his treatment of Isobel seemed dismissive. The social issues of the time were well highlighted by the author with a concurrent story of the Witch Trials in Salem, the plight of fleeing saves using the Underground Railroad, the mistreatment and victimization of women who had no rights, the struggles of prejudice that immigrants face in America We enjoyed the novel and feel it is going to become a best seller - it was definitely a compelling read!

Menu: Bee-shaped tea cakes and chocolate and lemon lavender scones to enjoy with tea and coffee.

Bookish Ladies: "Everyone enjoyed the book and a fresh reboot of The Scarlet Letter. The author did a wonderful retelling and we loved the characters and the story. We had a great discussion and we’re so happy to have this fun experience. We highly recommend HESTER! One member loved the book so much that she took a trip to Salem - ok it was a brilliant coincidence that she was going there!"

Menu: "Many colorful vegetables mentioned in the book."

Famished for Fiction, Plano, Texas and Cork and Olive Book Club, Valrico, Florida
HALF-BLOWN ROSE by Leesa-Cross Smith (Grand Central, 2022)
A novel about a woman remaking her life after her husband’s betrayal leads to a year of travel, art, and passion in Paris.

Famished for Fiction: “We had a great time discussing HALF-BLOWN ROSE! This book really stretched us!" We discussed infidelity quite a bit: some members felt that the current problem —the marriage— needed to be resolved before embarking on another adventure—a relationship with Loup. We discussed that Vincent and Loup being independently wealthy contributed to their ability to just 'do as they pleased'. Vincent runs off to Paris; she and Loup travel by train to visit Theo, and family. Her family’s laid-back attitude when she shows up with Loup is a bit shocking; but, put into the context of their family, it made sense. SPOILER ALERT: We felt the ending left questions unanswered...maybe a sequel is in the plans? We would love to know if Vincent will return to Cillian, stay with Loup or go out on her own. We felt she was d searching for her freedom by leaving Kentucky and fleeing to Paris; but, in the end, becomes more tied down with the pregnancy. We recommend this book to those who enjoy Paris, romance, art, and secrets."Menu: We loved that the novel was set in Paris so we met at a French restaurant, Toulouse Cafe & Bar for quiche, Toulouse salad, lobster rolls, lobster risotto, and rose-themed drinks: French 77 and Rose all-day punch."

Cork and Olive: We looked forward to HALF-BLOWN ROSE, as we enjoyed Leesa’s novel THIS CLOSE TO OKAY and this did not disappoint! We enjoy her writing style—a phenomenal writer!” There was much discussion about whether Vincent should have led her husband on, whether it was wrong for her to be with Loup before a decision about her marriage, and whether she should have reached out to Tully and his mother. No one liked Cillian's actions and would have preferred Vincent to end her marriage if she was going to go be with someone else. We discussed Vincent's relationship with her children and the growing relationship with Tully, who we loved. There was concern that Vincent spent more time on Tully with her children, although we know that she loved them - she just didn't share as much of herself with them. We all want an epilogue!! We agreed that we needed to know what Vincent decided. Some hoped she kicked both Cillian and Loop to the curb, stayed in Paris, and raised the baby herself. Some thought she might have both... We loved that she decided to just do whatever she felt— eat pastries, sleep during the day, do whatever her spirit felt, while she proces

sed this punch in the gut to her life.
We enjoyed the references to food, art, books, and music. It was SO brilliant that Leesa created Vincent's Spotify playlists. We were delighted to see videos and references to characters on @anchoismusic. What a great way to bring the book to life! C'est bon bon bon! We recommend this novel to those who enjoy travel, art, and passion.”

Menu: "Our menu featured foods referenced —wonderfully varied and not all French! Cranberry Meatballs and Mashed Potatoes, Chickpea Stew, Fig Jam and Cheese with crackers, Rosemary Flatbread with Hummus and Olives, Pain au Chocolat, Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, and of course, Champagne!

Sensational Seven of Appleton, Wisconsin, Literary Lovelies of Yonkers, New York Junior League of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Sensational Seven of Appleton, Wisconsin, Finer Things Book Club of Brentwood, California
THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK by Ellen Marie Wiseman (Kensington, 8/22)
The story about the Willowbrook State School, the Staten Island mental institution that shocked a nation when exposed in the 1970s as a dumping ground for unwanted children.

Sensational Seven: "We are fortunate to read this new novel from a favorite author! Once again, Ms. Wiseman has so eloquently written about another of our nation’s past social injustices. We compared our strong responses to the novel with other books with difficult topics. She has shed light on a piece of our history that is so important to learn about. Her take on Willowbrook through the eyes of sixteen-year-old, Sage Winters, was a riveting ‘page-turner.’ When Sage discovers her twin sister, Rosemary, was alive and had been institutionalized for years at Willowbrook; she courageously heads to the school to rescue her. We discussed our emotional responses in realizing that these atrocities occurred in our lifetime and in our country Our discussion centered on how the children’s parents felt after learning the truth of events at the ‘school.’ We were sad and horrified over Willowbrook, and had for the staff and media who were crucial to its closure. We felt grateful for the advancement in care and treatment of the mentally ill and incapacitated members of our society today.”

Menu: "Our take on related food/drink: White chicken chili, representing the colorless mush that residents at Willowbrook were served daily. We also drank Tequila Sunrises, a popular cocktail in 1972, using orange juice. In the novel, the nurses mixed medication in orange juice to keep the residents sedated. No meds were used by our book club- only tequila and grenadine in the OJ!”

Junior League of Kalamazoo: “We enjoy historical fiction and mystery and this was the best of both worlds!”Some members recently toured a State Hospital in Michigan and were able to compare what they learned with Willowbrook. Ellen Marie Wiseman joined us via Zoom to answer questions about how she researched the book and where the ideas came from— including the big twist. It was especially fun because she had been at the memorial at Willowbrook the day before and was able to tell us about meeting some of the doctors and attendants who helped to blow the whistle, per se. We discussed society during this time, and why it was often recommended for parents to place children in a place like Willowbrook. We discussed how parents could see their child in that state, not say anything- many of us agreed that during that time, people deferred to 'authority’ and took the doctors at their word. Today, parents question and challenge authority, especially when it comes to doctors and teachers. We agreed this was one of the saddest stories we had heard and had time wrapping our heads around the fact that while it’s a fictional story the setting, conditions, and many of the characters were real. We also didn’t see the twist coming (Ellen said that even her editor didn’t see that one!).”

Menu: "Pancakes and bacon, a build-your-own-oatmeal bar, and orange juice —spiked with champagne instead of sedatives, as in the book."

Literary Lovelies: "This was truly a fascinating book that led to a great discussion about mental health. We couldn't believe it was based on a true story! We all loved this fascinating story, and it was heartbreaking to know it was based on a real situation. The subject matter was difficult but we all enjoyed the historical fiction and somewhat true crime genre in this well-written and detailed novel. Wiseman graphically describes the school, where employees brutalize and demean their residents. It’s after a reporter sneaks into the facility— the journalist is Geraldo Rivera, who was instrumental in getting the facility rehabbed and shut down —that light is shed on these inhumane conditions. We discussed the women brought to this facility, mental health, and the management of those needing special care. It was terrible that couldn’t speak up for themselves, and that no one ever checked on them This dark and gritty story will stay with us for a long time—it was so interesting and led to a fabulous discussion. This is my first time reading this author and I will be looking for more of her books."⁣

Elizabeth's Book Chat, Frisco, Texas; Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey; North Wales Area Public Library; Pennsylvania
WHEN WE LET GO  by Rochelle Weinstein

A novel about mothers and daughters, loss and acceptance, the lessons that come from heartbreak, and the healing it takes to embrace the joy of a second chance.Elizabeth’s Book Chat: "A wonderful match We had a very lively discussion with author Rochelle Weinstein and the book was so well received. Everyone loved it! There were different elements of the story that each of us could relate to which made it even more interesting. The author's style of writing is genuine and heartfelt. As we read the words on the page, we also were able to actually feel the emotions. What was very interesting was when members asked Rochelle where the idea for the tree came from. The response kept everyone chatting for a while. Great interaction!”
Menu: Charcuterie board, lemon cake, and wine

Book Club Girls Sparta: “A new author to us, and this moving story was enjoyed by all. Many could relate to the protagonist's profound level of loss and trauma and how one moment in her young life altered her future relationships with those closest to her. Trauma, grief, mother-daughter, sister, family, forgiveness, strength, and courage were all key factors that resonated with our readers. We discussed the importance of self-care and women surrounding themselves with people they can trust and open up to, and give themselves permission to move on and heal. We enjoyed the mother/ daughter theme. Read this moving novel if you are looking for a story of mothers, daughters, first love, second chances, and the powerful bond of sisters. “

 

Menu: "Wine and chocolate for self-care, a summer picnic with farm-to-table foods, lemonade, tea, and homemade fruit pies, based on Avery's garden and farm."
North Wales Area Library Book Club: “A big THANK YOU! This book was excellent! The believable characters drew readers in, and the settings were easy to picture. Several interesting relationships and ways of dealing with loss were explored. It was a well-built novel with interesting situations about dealing with grief, family relationships, and trust."

Over-Readers Anonymous of Cumming, Georgia, Reckless Readers of Eastford, Connecticut, Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey, Wine Club with a Book Problem, Woodstock, Georgia
OVERKILL by Sandra Brown (Grand Central, 8/22)
A crime thriller in which a conflict of conscience between a former football star and an ambitious state prosecutor swiftly intensifies into a fight for their lives.

Reckless Readers: "OVERKILL satisfied the thriller need, romance desire, and contemplative fiction we all love. It was an excellent book club book that sparked much conversation: the question of whether or not we would want to stay alive, or if we could actually pull the plug ourselves on a loved one, after being in a coma with no brain activity. The characters had moral and religious struggles with this choice, and we empathized with them. We loved the spicy romance in the book —with much discussion about how much more of it everyone wanted—as well as the direction of the story. Eban’s character sent us on another heated conversation about entitlement and the evils that wealth can add to an already evil person’s being. Sandra Brown did an excellent job of making us hate him, and kept us page-turning hoping for a better outcome. Recommended for book clubs that enjoy a little romance in their thriller, and heavy discussion points."

Menu: "Our drink—the Blue Overkill (vodka blue Curacao, and pineapple juice) was tasty, like Zach, and packed a punch like Kate. Paired with charcuterie."

Over-Readers Anonymous: “We recommend OVERKILL for those who enjoy crime fiction, suspense thrillers, and contemporary issues with a little romance thrown in! Our book club has enjoyed several Sandra Brown novels, they're entertaining and also touch on issues that lead to a deeper discussion. We discussed the ethical dilemma at the foundation of OVERKILL and delved into medical ethics, end-of-life planning, the characters, the plot, the judicial system, and the celebrity spotlight. As we all have roots in the south, we liked the Atlanta, New Orleans, and North Carolina settings. OVERKILL was action-packed and easy-to-read."

Menu: “As a BBQ menu was suggested by the author, met at a local restaurant for pulled pork!." (see Sandra Brown's recipe)

Book Club Girls: "An enjoyable read with developed characters an incredible, setting, and suspense well paced throughout the book.  We discussed what we would do if faced with the same situation as Zach even though none of our members have had to face this situation. What many of us thought should have been a clear-cut choice, as we wove through the narrative we came to understand that there were so many layers to this that came into play that it wasn't as simple as we believed in the beginning. The most hated character was the villain Eban and although he is fictional, we agreed there are real people in the world like him. When you are so wealthy that you can make so many disastrous choices as a human with no consequences was highlighted. What would have happened to someone else who wasn't as wealthy? Also, we all agreed that no one really thought about Rebecca, until they were forced to, which led us to agree it was unacceptable for her to continue to be victimized in a way for so very long. But, if she was allowed to let go in the beginning, there wouldn't be as much of a plot line for the book. Loved the premise of the story, it gave lots of topics for discussion.

Menu: "We recommend bbq, pulled pork sandwiches, cole slaw, baked beans, and any tailgating type of foods that would be a nod to North Carolina and football."

Wine Club with a Book Problem: "OVERKILL is a good thought-provoking story. The topic of life support and having your affairs in order gave us a good discussion, and we enjoyed the setting of Atlanta since we live in the area. Former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Zach Bridger has MPA for his ex-wife, Rebecca, who has been placed on life support after a violent assault. Zach has kept Rebecca on life support for 4 years to honor her parent's wishes. The attacker, Eban, gets an early release from prison and Kate Lennon, a brilliant state prosecutor, is determined to put him back behind bars. If Rebecca were to die, Eban could be retried on a new charge: murder. Zach is asked to make an impossible choice: keep her on life support or take her off and put Eban back in prison. We discussed that no one really thought about Rebecca. Zach was concerned about how he would be portrayed by the media, her father keeping her alive to punish Zach, and Eban boasting how his father's money got him out of prison early and now he can bet back to partying. It was unacceptable to keep Rebecca on life-support for so long.

Menu: "There are many football analogies and football references throughout the book. We put together a Tailgate Football Menu: Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Balsamic Fig Infused Burger Bites, Wings, Homemade Salsa & Chips plus Guacamole, Buffalo Chicken Dip, Pizza Pepper Poppers."

Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York; Page Ladies, Cleveland, Ohio; Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; CT Lit, Bridgeport, Connecticut; Kings Chapel Book Club  Arrington, Tennessee,
ALL MY RAGE by Sabaa Tahir (Penguin Teen, 3/22)

A contemporary novel about family and forgiveness, love and loss, in a sweeping story that crosses generations and continents.

Reading Between the Wines: "We all enjoyed the book and thought the author did a wonderful job of creating flawed and 'real' characters that we grew to care about."This was a great match for our club. Our discussion included immigrants' struggles to preserve their culture while trying to achieve the American Dream, the nature of generational trauma, the opioid crisis, and the role of faith in people's lives- so many things to discuss! We became invested in the characters of Noor and Sal and the traumatic events that they and their families, experienced impacted us, and provided a lot of jumping-off points for discussion. Watching their growth throughout the novel gave it a hopeful ending. We loved this book and were fully invested in these characters, and reading it was a very emotional journey. Recommended to clubs that enjoy books discussing contemporary themes, strong characters, and emotional reads.

Menu: We met at a local Indian/Pakistani restaurant to enjoy food discussed and eaten in the novel: chai tea, poori, halwa, Chicken Kashmiri, and paratha, among other dishes!

Page Ladies: “We went in expecting a contemporary story about friendship and forgiveness but what we got was so much more. Thank you, Sabaa Tahir, for sharing this devastating but absolutely beautiful story with us! This is a powerful story that affected each of us differently. It's one that will stay with us for a long time. Until The Fight Salahudin and Noor were more than friends; they were family. Now, Sal is struggling with keeping his family's motel afloat as his mother's health fails and his father loses himself to alcoholism. Meanwhile, Noor is working at her uncle's liquor store and hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him and Juniper forever. Sal and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst. This is an emotional and moving story about friendship, forgiveness, and heartache; it’s like taking a deep dive into a pool full of emotions. Grief, betrayal and forgiveness, loss, rage— you will feel every single one and more in this book. No one from our book club was able to finish this book with dry eyes. There are so many topics that were brought up and all were not easy to discuss: death, drugs, prejudice, and physical abuse. The writing is absolutely wonderful—Sabaa Tahir is a fabulous storyteller. She has a way with words that touches each of her readers.“

Get Woke Book Club “Members arrived with books displaying colorful post-it tabs, which visually reflected the common greeting, 'there is so much to think about in this novel!A group of mothers and grandmothers very much enjoyed the novel by a young adult author and its detailed and realistic picture of the struggles that immigrants face in relocating to the United States and of the family traditions and secrets that follow the immigrants to their new home. The culture and religious traditions of Pakistan were vividly described in an engaging storyline and beautiful prose. The main plot follows the lives of two Pakistani teens, who are struggling with school, personal tragedies, and love. They are surrounded by other well-drawn characters who add depth to the story. We discussed the many plot lines and themes: diversity, forgiveness, hope, family relationships, communication, secrecy, and loss. Tahir fills the novel with music, probably an excellent technique for adolescent readers—they can easily relate to the messages and emotions through familiar songs.  Noor uses songs and their lyrics to help cope with the conflicts in her life. 

Members shared selfies with short reflections:  “Music plays a role in helping us deal with life’s adversities.*  When is a relationship worth salvaging?  *Fortunately forgiveness does not have an expiration date. It waits and always hopes to be the last word. *Peeling through the complicated layers of life we can see, appreciate and begin to understand one another. * One of my favorite quotes ‘Great passions grow into monsters in the dark of the mind; but if you share them with loving friends they remain human, they can be endured.’ * Tahir effectively introduces sections with lines from  Elizabeth Bishop's poem, “One Art.  Many characters ‘lost’ things: family, money, businesses, dignity. A lesson we all may need is that losing isn’t always bad.: 'the art of losing’s not too hard to master’ *While keeping a secret is meant to protect someone at some point, keeping that secret might be doing more harm.”

CT Lit Book Club: "We’ve been exploring new genres, and we enjoyed ALL MY RAGE, a heartbreaking story that touches on a lot of sensitive topics which gave us plenty to discuss.ALL MY RAGE introduced us to Pakistani culture. This young adult story follows two Pakistani teens growing up in a small town in California and the grim realities of their American dream. Even through difficult times their cultural norms held them together as a family, even if not by blood, the young adult characters are each facing their own struggles—the death of a loved one, racism, alcoholism, drugs, abuse— they are navigating grief, failure, and forgiveness, and must ultimately lean on one another to make sense of the chaos they are facing. It was shocking to imagine our younger selves in situations like these and we spent time reflecting on how the kids navigated various situations. One that stood out is how Salahudin and Noor dealt with the drug bust, and how their relationship persevered. We also discussed how Salahudin came to terms with his abuse. We recommend ALL MY RAGE for clubs learning about other cultures, family drama, and historical fiction."

Kings Chapel: “Thank you for the chance to read this insightful novel. We had a fabulous discussion and I think it was good to read outside our usual genres. This is a heart-wrenching story about two teens from Pakistani families living in Juniper, California, dealing with tough circumstances, basically all by themselves. We don’t read much YA, It was out of the comfort zone for most of the ladies. but the tough topics represented in this story, such as grief, alcoholism, physical abuse, and racism, were easier to handle in the Young Adult format. Understanding why the characters made the choices they did was something we discussed quite a bit. As teens, they made decisions that were wrong but for the right reasons and it was interesting to get in the minds of these teens and try to understand why. As parents, it was hard to read at times, feeling so sad for these kids who have had such a hard life. But seeing them grow and learn from mistakes and stand up for others, gave the book a nice redemption quality in the end. Recommended for groups that enjoy YA coming of age and social justice." 



Reckless Readers, East Lyme, Connecticut, Chilly Thrillies, Tulsa, Oklahoma;
Lit Ladies Read, Melbourne, Florida; Thrillers by The Book / Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas;
Thrillers by The Book / Costa Mesa, California, CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut recommend:
THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur 7/22)
Paris Peralta is suspected of killing her celebrity husband, and her long-hidden past now threatens to destroy her future.

Reckless Readers: An excellent match! Everyone was excited to talk about the twists. We had much to discuss with THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK. Members were messaging before we met, needing to talk about the book as they were finishing it. It was like a month-long meeting, behind the scenes! Usually, if continuous discussion is prompted, the book was a hit. To say the book was twisty is an understatement. This book was twisty than a country back road! A few of us seasoned readers predicted the big twists, but most of us were surprised and shocked. Together, we all needed to unload about the horrendous mothering and terrible situations that Joey was put in throughout her childhood. All of the women in our group are mothers, which makes the book hit us so much harder. But the book wasn’t just about sexual abuse and trauma. There is a high-profile murder that could potentially unearth secrets that need to be kept hidden. The conversation got animated when we discussed Joelle's charge with murder, and there was much discussion about the relationship between Ruby and Joey. As mothers, we found it hard to imagine how Ruby could treat Joey the way she did and put her in such horrible situations. It was heartbreaking and disturbing ."

Chilly Thrillies: “Thank you for giving our group the gift of a 5-star read, a perfect match! We were engaged from start to finish and loved how much there was to discuss. It had the thrills of a book with great character development and storyline. We discussed narcissism and how it affects relationships, specifically parent-child, how the way you are raised affects your instincts and perspective of others, fight or flight and how we would react in certain scenarios in the book, sexual abuse, and its long-term effects, age gap relationships and how people can be evil, but the 'lesser evil.’ We debated which storyline in the dual timeline was more action-packed—something hard to accomplish. Normally, we’re more interested in one storyline, We each were able to predict one of the twists, but we're stumped on the others and loved that there was more than one twist revealed. I was so impressed, I read Hillier’s JAR OF HEARTS. Recommended for those who enjoy a page-turning thriller with complex characters that you root for."

Menu: We made a Filipino Chicken Adobo recipe similar to what Paris makes towards the end of the book (she used pork instead of chicken). We were inspired by her description of how learning to cook was so special when she was going through such a dark time.

Lit Ladies Read: “We enjoyed this twisty, thriller/mystery. and had a very lively discussion! We had so much to discuss. We enjoyed the storytelling, shifting between past and present. and different points of view. This really helped to fully develop the characters. Although some predicted twists, we were still engrossed in the story and wanted to see how things played out.
“Our discussion centered around the characters and their relationships. One of our favorites was that between Jimmy and Paris and the highlight of our discussion was the relationship between Paris/Joey and Ruby. We disagreed about how adult Paris should have handled Ruby and decided that we had to agree to disagree about our feelings towards Paris, but we all agreed that this book was a hit for our group. The mystery is multi-layered, with deep characters. Many members put other books by this author on their ‘to be read’ list."

Thrillers by the Book Club, DFW: "This was our best GalleyMatch, perfect for our group and for book clubs that like dark and twisted mysteries“We all loved how the book started with a very intriguing and captivating scene Joey’s background was very interesting and her relationship with her mother was so toxic. There are a few mysteries in the story. Besides trying to find out if Paris murdered her husband, we’re also trying to work out Paris’ past, how did she go from living with an abusive unstable mother, who is now in prison, to living a wealthy life married to a famous celebrity? I enjoyed Paris’ past the most I loved the intensity in the chapters that focused on Paris’ childhood and upbringing. Ruby, her mother, was such an intriguing and complex character—a terrible mother, self-centered and irresponsible, which caused Paris a lot of pain and uncertainty. While a few members predicted the twist, it didn’t take away from the enjoyment of this dark and suspenseful story.”

Thrillers by The Book, Costa Mesa: “This was an excellent pick for our club! The majority liked or loved this one! Some said it was one of their favorite picks of the year. Many of the members enjoyed the mystery of learning about the murderer in the end, and the alternating timelines of the female main character. There were a variety of opinions about who committed the crime.”

CT Lit Book Club: "This was the perfect match for us! We have been craving a thriller and this was on all of our anticipated release lists. We all enjoyed the book, and were so excited to have a chance to preview it! We discussed how jam-packed this book was with plot points. There was much to hold your attention and give you room to try and predict what would happen. We loved how creative Hillier is— there is one scene in specific that was so creative and will leave us remembering the book forever! (hint hint, ice skates). Half of us had read another book by Hillier, and we all agreed that we want to read more Hiller titles."


The Ladies of Autumnwood, Grand Isle, New York, Mom and I Book Club of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, r
ecommend:

THE MATCHMAKER'S GIFT BY Lynda Cohen Loigman (St. Martin's Press, 9/20/22)
 An intergenerational story about two women—a grandmother and granddaughter—who share the same incredible gift: the ability to identify soulmates

The Ladies of Autumnwood: We loved THE MATCHMAKER’S GIFT! Reading about Raskin’s pickles and the knish shops brought back wonderful memories of shopping at a pickle store in lower Manhattan barrels with barrels on the sidewalk and enjoying a great knish. These memories, among other topics, helped to round out our animated discussion last night. Members didn’t know much about ‘yentas’ or matchmakers and their role in creating Jewish courtship relations. We enjoyed learning about the bravery of the young girl, who beyond the fact that she was Jewish opened our eyes to the challenges of women, not unlike what some have to endure to break that glass ceiling today."
Menu: “We enjoyed Challah and red wine, and took home jars of pickles that I designed with a Raskin’s label.”

My Mom and I: “This pick was perfection. Not only did it match our love of magical realism but we agreed it’s the best book we’ve read this year. You found the perfect book for us!”
“We discussed magic, love, strong women, lovable characters, and the absolute beauty of the writing. We recommend this book to those who enjoy magical realism, foodie fiction, historical fiction, and women’s fiction. The author wrote a book that we treasure and we’re raving about it to everyone. This is a book that you feel like hugging at the end. We absolutely loved it. It’s a gem! “

Menu: "A smorgasbord! We had a blast capturing foods mentioned in the book lox and capers, cornichons— we decorated pickle jars with ‘The Pickle King’, as in the book. We had magical color-changing butterfly tea, as we wanted some magic to go with the story, and chocolate babka for dessert, like our beloved characters baked.

St. Louis Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri;  Mom and I Book Club, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania;  Pittsford Moms Book Club, Pittsford, New York, and Port Wine and Book Society Readers, Port Washington, Wisconsin recommend:
OTHER BIRDS by Sarah Addison Allen (St Martins, Press, 8/30/22)
A novel about a young woman who claims her deceased mother's apartment in an island town, where she meets she meets quirky and secretive neighbors.

St. Louis Women’s Book Club: "A great match! We felt like this was the perfect mix of themes, giving us questions and a variety of topics to discuss. Having an arc made us feel like ‘VIPs’ to the publishing process. This novel was cozy, nostalgic, and heartfelt! Allen’s characters help redefine the word ‘family’ in the most beautiful way. We discussed the definition of home and chosen family, food as a love language —and inspiration for potlucks for book club!! The setting—so realistic and magical, the imagery of the birds and the meaning. OTHER BIRDS takes you on a magical journey of youth, delicately balancing both beauty and sadness. We recommend this book to clubs who are fans of magical realism. It was fuzzy, cozy --the perfect happy read."

Menu: "We made amazing foods to match the book: cornmeal air-fried tomatoes, potato chips on Hawaiian rolls, Mac & cheese, cornbread, Palomas, and marshmallow popcorn."

My Mom and I: "Thank you for a rare opportunity to preview our favorite author’s new book! Sarah Addison Allen's first novel GARDEN SPELLS introduced us to our favorite genre, magical realism. I saved the book for the perfect moment and then tore into it. After waiting eight years for her new book I knew I’d read it too quickly and, that’s what happened We are Italian and loved the ‘found family’ theme and 'food is love' philosophy running through the novel. We enjoyed the foodie talk, animals, ghosts, and magical elements. All characters and storylines were interesting and mysterious; sometimes beautiful, but sometimes ugly but always interesting. Several big reveals had us slack-jawed!

While OTHER BIRDS is a little sadder and darker than her previous works, the magic and the love and the beauty left the reader with a love of the characters and a belief that as the characters live beyond 'the end' of the book all turned out well for them. And you will want that because you will be left loving nearly everything about OTHER BIRDS! We recommend this to those who like magical realism and foodie fiction."

Menu: "Cornmeal marshmallow dishes based on a character: Fluffernutters (marshmallow whip and peanut butter sandwiches), tamale pie stuffed peppers, cornmeal sugar cookies, and marshmallow-flavored lip balm as a keepsake."

Pittsford Moms: "We had so much fun with OTHER BIRDS! We loved this found family story and all the special characters! The novel was a good fit for our club. We try to switch up genres/authors and most members like books with some magic realism elements. We felt it was an easy read and generally flew through the book - Thanks! kept our attention. We loved the story of found family, the characters, and their backgrounds. Books with paranormal/magic realism can be hit or miss for most members but they worked well with this story and added background and historical context for many of the characters. We had a great discussion about the twists and the characters' diverse backgrounds— we would have liked a little more depth to some characters that had very traumatic backgrounds. We recommend OTHER BIRDS to groups that enjoy a touch of magic realism and found family stories!”

Menu: "S’mores bars— the story takes place on Marsh Island and all restaurants in town have something marshmallow on their menu.” 

Port Wine and Book Society: "A great match for our club! We recommend this enchanting story written from the heart, with interesting characters and subplots.”Zoey was such a delightful, open and honest young character— we all adored her. We liked how the story unfolded by hearing different characters' viewpoints in each chapter. The Dellawisps added fun and interest, some of us thought they may have stolen Charlotte's money.  We loved the descriptions of Mallow Island - we live in a small tourist town in Wisconsin and really identified with that. The highlighted passages in Lizbeth’s copy of Sweet Mallow were ironic because she didn't live her life according to any of them - she was so stuck in the past it literally killed her. We enjoyed a unique story, quirky characters, and the theme of food as friendship/love."

Menu: “The detail around food was great! We  made several dishes with corn or cornmeal to celebrate it: Polenta and shrimp, fresh corn salad, corn dip and corn chips, and popcorn.”

CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut; Page Ladies, Cleveland, Ohio; KU Endowment, Lawrence, Kansas; and Girls Clubhouse, Auburn, California recommend
MIRROR GIRLS by Kelly McWilliams (Little Brown, 2/22)
A gothic horror novel about twin sisters separated across the color line after the murder of their parents (YA historical fiction/  magical realism/fantasy).

CT Lit: “MIRROR GIRLS was a great discussion starter and the perfect book to read with a group. It took us out of our comfort zone and was eye-opening, a reminder that segregation is not so far in the past. We are transported to the South—and blatant racism —which as a group of white women living in Connecticut, we don't have experience with. We follow twin sisters Magnolia and Charlie, separated at birth—one raised as Black in New York City and one raised as white-passing in the Deep South— who learn the secret everyone has kept from them. The novel portrayed how indoctrinated people were, and in some cases ready to push racism aside when it would benefit them. We discussed how Charlie's view on life differs after growing up in the more liberal Harlem and compared it to growing up in Connecticut and traveling in different areas in the United States. We recommend this book to clubs that enjoy Brit Bennett's THE VANISHING HALF.”

Page Ladies: "We all enjoyed this historical fiction with a paranormal twist that is both heartbreaking and beautiful. The book offered many different topics, generating a nice discussion: the time period, the girls as individuals, their different upbringings and when they came together, the decision to separate them and not tell them about each other, and much more! A wonderful story about twin girls Charlie and Magnolia who were separated after their parents died for love across the color line and have no idea the other exists. Magnolia. raised in Georgia, is the white heiress to a cotton plantation. Charlie, raised in Harlem with her Nana, is a young Black organizer. When Charlie's grandmother falls ill, they return to Georgia. When the girls do meet Magnolia discovers her reflection has disappeared. They couldn’t be more different, but they will need each other to put the hauntings of the past to rest, break the mirrors’ deadly curse, and discover the meaning of sisterhood in a racially divided land. Seeing the girls come together to create that sisterly bond was wonderful, as is the writing, and pacing. The curse and the ghosts added an interesting twist to the story.”

Girls Clubhouse: "We all enjoyed MIRROR GIRLS and we tried to capture the supernatural aspect of the book with mirror images” Charlie and Magnolia both born in the South but separated at birth live separate lives but face the double threat of racism and ghosts. We discussed how ‘Colored Town ‘is equally foreign to both girls, despite being born there; contrasting with where they were each raised. Magnolia knows the rules of the general area, while Charlie knows how things are done —how stories are told, some traditions. The concept of the veil as the place between this world and the afterlife was used by the author also as the place between the white world and the colored world, which made this gothic story much more intriguing than if it had been singularly used. This forces both girls to examine who they are and what they are willing to live with. Members enjoy supernatural books, and the idea of ghosts to help guide the characters was appealing. We found it to be a ‘light’ supernatural read. We recommend to clubs who enjoy gothic young adult novels."

KU Endowment: "Everyone loved the book. Some members were pleasantly surprised by the way supernatural elements were combined with social commentary and realistic events. The author was able to shine a light on the atrocities of slavery and segregation without being heavy-handed and shows us a playbook for fighting back through the strong and determined sisters, Charlie and Magnolia. The past can haunt us but that doesn't mean it has to control us, and love will conquer hate. One member discussed the book with her 86-year-old mother, who shared memories of her experiences during segregation. We all felt hopeful and inspired by the book and loved the characters. We talked about what it would be like not to know your origins and what would inspire someone to fight against things they know are wrong when it could cost them everything. We recommend to those that enjoy strong characters, historical fiction, and being inspired."

The Revivals Book Club The Revivals, Germantown, Wisconsin; Famished for Fiction, Plano, Texas; Zoom-Chilly Thrillies, Tulsa, Oklahoma
THE CICADA TREE by Robert Gwaltney, Jr.
A novel about an 11-year-old, whisky-drinking, piano prodigy who encounters a wealthy family of supernatural beauty.

The Revivals: “Have we missed out on a genre of remarkable books or were we gifted a gem in a genre we might not have read? The debut novel THE CICADA TREE soared to the top of the 2022 best reads. We dare you not to highlight dozens of richly written sentences; our galleys are filled with colorful post-it notes. The discussion questions gave deeper insight into the themes and allegories we hadn’t considered. We agreed that the book fit into genres of southern gothic, magical realism, and coming-of-age. We explored biblical allegories: good and evil, Jesus, John the Baptist, Cain and Abel, plague, water, and fire. Once every 13 years, the cicadas emerge in tremendous numbers to mate and disrupt human life and comfort; some believe they hold our secrets. Gwaltney has a gift for bringing all together in an unforgettable book appealing to multiple genres and readers. We discussed how music and the song of the Cicadas featured prominently, and the writing allowed us to hear the music as the book’s climax approached. There are themes of coming-of-age, transformation, and rebirth. Gwaltney poetically foreshadows the storyline early as the story’s protagonist, a typical tween experiencing growing pains, insecurity, and self-recrimination sheds her childhood as a cicada does. Triumphing over evil, the novel reaches an angelic and lyrical end. There are as many ways to love this book as there are to interpret it–we dare you to read it! We all loved this novel.”

Menu: Iced Tea, Autumn Apple & Feta Salad, Watermelon Salad, Feta, Mint; Skillet Cheddar Cornbread, Southern Pecan Praline Cookies, Coffee on a garden patio.

Zoom-Chilly Thrillies: We had a great time reading and discussing THE CICADA TREE, a wonderful match that pushed us out of our comfort zone, with its unique blend of genres— historical fiction, fantasy, and mystery. This was a unique story! We agreed it was unpredictable and gave much to discuss. Some words members shared to describe the writing style and story were: Gothic, descriptive, imaginative, twisted, mystical, humorous, innocent, and unpredictable! We were excited about the discussion and most finished it quickly-after the halfway point, unable to put it down.

"We discussed symbolism, class differences, racism, religion, southern culture, character motivations, and family relationships. and how the main character was looking up to a family she aspired to. We discussed our childhood oddities, raised by the mention of the character's liking the feel of pain. We enjoyed that it was told through a child's lens, while dark but the child's perspective ensured curiosity and humor even when horrifying things are happeningThe writing is creative and descriptive and made us think about things such as how you hear music in a new light. The ending was haunting and beautiful and there were many shocked reactions!

"We also discussed the movies or books we thought possibly influenced the author, including REBECCA, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and MEAN GIRLS., We are eager to read Gwaltney's next novel!"

Menu: “Iced tea was sipped!"

Famished for Fiction: “A wonderful opportunity to read a complex story with a bit of mystery and unexpected twists and turns. Our group is diverse, and open to new and different genres, and appreciated the opportunity to discover this book. We discussed the focus of music and its impact on the progression of the story. Music is a major theme throughout the piece, whether it is the music Mr. Mayfield had composed for his wife or the musical virtuosity of the Mayfield children. We explored the cicada's presence: cicadas are seasonal and burrow in the ground, so they are equivalent to all of the secrets that are buzzing around the town of Providence, connecting the Mayfields to Etta Mae and Analeise, and the link between their molting and the growing pains the main characters are experiencing.”

Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado; Books and Brew, Allendale, Michigan;  Carrollton Book Buddies, Carrollton, Texas;
BluStocking Literacy Society, West Allis, Wisconsin

THE CODEBREAKER'S SECRET by Sara Ackerman (Mira, 8/22)
A brilliant female code breaker and a pilot on a top-secret mission come together in this dazzling story of love and intrigue set during America’s darkest hour.

Ranch Readers: Our book club enjoyed this book as we read a non-fiction WWII book about codebreakers and many have traveled to Hawaii so both the theme and setting are familiar. The storyline was realistic and we enjoyed the dual timelines with relevance at the end of the book when the characters are planting a memorial garden on the plantation. We discussed our mother's vital roles during the war, such as working in a war plant, how women were disregarded and treated as second-class citizens, and the situations where the same treatment happens today.We discussed our Hawaiian travels: topography, lava fields, ocean conditions, and coffee plantations. Those that have visited the Mauna Kea Hotel described it. Recommended for book clubs that enjoy historical fiction and WWII stories.”

Menu: “Banana chocolate chip cake/ banana pudding topping, tropical fruit salad, Huli-huli Chicken.”

BluStocking Literacy Society: “
A perfect match! We enjoy historical fiction/mystery that pulls us in and we all anticipated the discussion. We discussed the timeline and connections between the two eras, and the uncertainty that women codebreakers felt reflected by Lu as she struggles to establish herself as a journalist. Isabel walked a line between expressing her intelligence and thoughts and second-guessing herself and stepping back. It was fascinating to consider women in a secret intelligence role and the obstacles they had to overcome.”
Menu: "
Wacky Cake, a classic chocolate cake born of necessity for WWII rationing.”

Carrollton Book Buddies: “A brilliant female codebreaker. An ‘unbreakable’ Japanese naval code. A pilot on a top-secret mission that could change the course of WWII. My book club loved THE CODEBREAKER'S SECRET! The dual timeline novel is set in Hawaii. We enjoyed discussing the amazing roles women played in World War ll. While most of us decided we'd have been secretaries, one member thought the radar plotter sounded like a fit. We appreciated that there were those that worked as mechanics, pilots ferrying planes, medics, and of course, the codebreakers! The Dungeon where the codebreakers worked and the men in charge were a hot topic-the smoke, the drinking, the snobbery, all appalling. Just the thought of approaching the stairs and entering drew lots of remarks! We read the author's explanation of the difference between codes and ciphers and concluded the codebreakers were brilliant! We discussed survivor's guilt, the way Germans, Italians, and the Japanese were treated here in the states, and men in power and misuse of that power. We appreciated the way the threads were all tied up by the ending, though a surprise. The stunning descriptions of the Mauna Kea Hotel and the surroundings have us all wishing for a trip to Hawaii. We appreciated the brilliant, unique roles of women in war."

Menu: "We met at tropical Tommy Bahamas restaurant for a chopped salad with shrimp, coconut shrimp, and Mahi Mahi Tacos. Tropical beverages included. Cloud Coconut Martinis and Jalapeno Margaritas."

Books and Brew: "The story takes place in 1943 and 1965. It's 1943, and Isabel Cooper, who has lost her older brother in the attack on Pearl Harbor, is working as a code breaker, solving Japanese naval codes. Isabel seizes an opportunity to solve codes in Hawaii to locate her brother’s friends and learn about his life. In Hawaii, she stumbles into a life-changing mystery. In 1965, aspiring journalist Lu Freitas is traveling to the Mauna Kea Hotel for its grand opening, when she befriends a famous woman. When her new friend disappears, Lu investigates and soon uncovers a missing link to the past. We discussed women in history, World War II, the relationship between the main character to her friend and her brother's friends, her internal struggle, and women's roles during the war. I was so grateful to have received this book early for my book club! I was so immersed in the characters and their story, I couldn't put it down! Five stars!"

Reading is My Cardio, Smithfield, Rhode Island;  Bookish Ladies, Coto De Caza, California; Next Chapter, Leesburg, Virginia
SIX DAYS IN ROME by Francesca Giacco (Grand Central, 5/22)
A young artist travels to Rome to heal a broken heart, where she confronts loneliness and intimacy, rage and desire in this debut novel.

Reading is My Cardio: "We adored this lyrical and atmospheric debut! It was refreshing to read a book with realistically flawed characters and where not everything gets tied up in a perfect bow. This character-driven story explores relationships in so many forms - family, romantic, and with one's self - and the writing is just beautiful. Truly a perfect book for summer, transporting us to Rome for a captivating six days. We discussed how this isn't a book with a lot of plot and yet it kept us interested throughout. We loved the writing and many of us highlighted passages that we shared and discussed, and the group also touched on whether we'd be able to travel solo as the main character did. Another subject that came up was how the narrative is almost stream of consciousness which some of our group enjoyed more than others. We recommend this book to clubs that enjoy being transported to another place and appreciate character-driven books about self-discovery."

Menu: "Italian-themed cocktail party featuring charcuterie, Aperol Spritzes, and a gelato bar for dessert."

Bookish Ladies: "SIX DAYS IN ROME was beautifully written We enjoyed the food and descriptions around Rome! We loved how the book was written in terms of description and character development. It was a lighter, summer read. We felt l the character had a lot to work out but she never quite figured out what it was so there were a lot of questions left up for interpretation."

Menu: Italian rosé, homemade flatbreads with Italian pesto, mozzarella, fresh basil, aged balsamic, and roasted tomatoes.

Next Chapter: “Everyone agreed that Francesca Giacco's writing was beautiful,—and it was fun to read her book looking for food and drink that members can make and enjoy at book club! Emilia heads off on a six-day trip to Rome—it was supposed to be a romantic trip with her then-boyfriend Michael. but that’s not possible as he is married! With six days in Rome, Emilia will have time to reflect on why it wouldn’t work, why she deserves better, and time to enjoy the food and wine on her trip. We discussed what we thought happened to Michael: we had differing opinions to whether he had died or was with someone else or married. During her trip, she reflects on her relationship with her father and brother, and has lots of yummy food and drink throughout. We were happy that she met someone new and Emilia Is able to focus on herself and her art. Her six days in Rome weren’t what she had planned when she booked the trip, but sometimes better things come out of bad situations. Ah, the magic of Italy! One of our members took her book to Rome and shared photos."

Menu: “We enjoyed Aperol Spritz cocktails, a charcuterie board, tiramisu, and wine-soaked grapes”.

Peoria Book Rack, Illinois, Thrillers by the Book Orange County, California, Novels N Latte, Hudson Valley, New York
THE GOOD SISTER by Sally Hepworth (St. Martins Press, 2021)
A psychological thriller about the lies that bind two sisters.

Peoria Book Rack: “We agreed it was fast-paced and a quick read. The story keeps you guessing as you try to figure out the family dynamic between sisters Rose and Fern. the journals, their relationship with the mom, the twists! We also discussed Hepworth's versatility as an author. She has a solid list of backlist books that many of us are excited to check out! We recommend for book clubs that enjoy family thrillers.”

Thrillers by the Book: “Everyone loves Sally Hepworth, and this was a favorite! A likable main character and a fun story. We talked about representation in books, and the importance of character-driven books, and how her writing style is relatable and easy to read."

Novels N Latte: “Perfect for our club. We love good twisted family dynamics, and this sister story gave us a lot to discuss, including Fern's autism spectrum and which was actually the good sister.”

Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey, East Lawrence High School Book Club of Trinity, Alabama, Reckless Readers of  Eastford, Connecticut, and North Wales Area Library Book Club, Pennsylvania
DARK AND SHALLOW LIES by Ginny Myers Sain (Penguin Teen, 2021)

A supernatural thriller about a teen girl who disappears from her small town deep in the bayou, where magic festers beneath the surface of the swamp.

Reckless Readers: The story hooked the teens— they enjoyed the love story and the witchy aspect, and our adult readers also loved the book. We included teen daughters who wanted to join, and teachers and librarians in the group who wanted to preview it before ordering for their locations. A few of them have not read YA books, so it was a nice and unexpected change for them. We liked the Southern setting, and how the author submerged us in Bayou. From gigantic gators ( Willie Nelson) to psychic abilities, shapeshifter, and Aurora readers, this book is a full experience. The end was shocking and fit the story. We recommend this book for those that enjoy a hint of magic within a southern setting.

Menu: "Southern delights mentioned in the book: Honey’s Pralines, Willie Nelson’s Gator Piss cocktail—with Midori, lime juice, rum, sweet & sour mix, and seltzer—Cajun wings and shrimp dip."

North Wales Area Library: “Our group had one of the best discussions we can remember!”This was an excellent selection and discussion. The book brought the Louisiana bayou setting to life. One member was raised in the area and she especially thought the setting description was spot on. The group wondered why the word ‘shallow’ was included in the title: The lies did not seem shallow. We debated the killer, books were pulled out and theories shared. The hurricane preparation made for interesting reading. We discussed why an outside investigation might not have happened. All said they would read another Sain book and looked forward to the next book in the series. We hope to have our adult group discuss DARK AND SHALLOW LIES with our teen book club! Our group rates books with 1-5 stars. The lowest rating in the group was 4.5! We recommend this book to clubs who enjoy reading outside of the box.”

ELHS Book Club: “Thank you for providing yet another wonderful book for our students! We discussed the setting bayous, swamps, cypress trees, alligators, shrimp boats and houses on stilts. The author did an excellent job painting a picture for the reader. We also discussed mental illness which is woven into the plot through a couple of characters via subtle behaviors and downright craziness.

Menu: jambalaya, gumbo, and pistolette rolls.

Book Club Girls: “Don't be turned away by the YA label, this book is for all ages. It was completely off our radar as far as genre, and many readers gave it five stars, and couldn't believe it was a debut novel. One member stayed up until 5 am to finish— she just had to know the end! The writing was fantastic. We discussed the book is marketed as a YA title, however, NONE of us are near that demographic We felt the characters could be aged up to the 30s and 40' and still make sense—they were just as vital to the storyline as the plot. We felt the novel touched on mystery and supernatural themes but also the deep-rooted impact of emotional trauma that shapes us. We discussed how keeping secrets buried for so many years by everyone caused so much heartache and pain. If truths were told from the start, what would the lives of the children have been like?? A great evening with lots of thoughtful discussions and fun had by all."

Menu: Hurricane Punch, crawfish, gator bites, cajun fried catfish, and cornbread.

Lit Ladies Read Book Club of Melbourne, Florida and Thrillers by the Book of Costa Mesa, California
THE YOUNGER WIFE by Sally Hepworth, (St. Martins Press, 4/22)
A new novel of domestic suspense that delves into a tangled web of family secrets, and lies.

Lit Ladies Read: "We loved this book and had a great discussion, which centered on the theme of perceived reality. We had a great debate about whether Stephen was actually an abuser or just misunderstood. The epilogue raised more questions than provided answers. Our group had varying opinions depending on which character’s perspective we were discussing. We all enjoyed the ambiguous nature of the ending and agreed it was very clever. It was a lot of fun to discuss our own opinions and debate what we believed to be the truth. Some of our members took the book at face value, while others questioned what we had read and what we believed to be the truth.

"We liked how the story was told with alternating points of view and followed along easily when the perspective changed. The book dealt with some serious topics but was written in a very light-hearted way that made it a quick enjoyable read."

Menu: “Heather would have been proud! We met at a country club,  in true Aston fashion. We had Mahi tacos and quesadillas in honor of Rachel and Darcy’s first date.”

Thrillers by the Book: "A perfect match! We’re big fans of Sally Hepworth! We loved the intriguing vibe the author created by not revealing right away who was involved in the accident from the opening scene. The story is based on many factors, dysfunctional family dynamics, abusive relationships, addiction, mental issues, and so many juicy secrets. We enjoyed Sally’s writing style and the characters she created. Sally has a way of making her characters very relatable and down to earth. We also enjoyed how she connected a piece of her real-life to one of the scenes in this book. Some of the secondary characters seemed to love Stephen but Heather and his kids suspect him of being abusive. The ending left us wondering if Stephen was in actual fact abusive. The women around him suffered a lot of 'accidents' but it’s never clear if they were really accidents or intentional. We recommend this title for book clubs that enjoy a family drama with a hint of suspense. Thank you for spoiling our book club!"

Page Ladies of Cleveland, Ohio, Bibliobibuli of San Diego, California, and HAH Reading Club of Kaukama, Wisconsin
THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY by Sherri L. Smith ((Penguin Young Readers, 2//20)
From the award-winning author of Flygirl comes this powerful WWII romance between two Japanese teens caught in the cogs of an unwinnable war.

Page Ladies: “Thank you for sharing this amazing, compelling, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking story about life in Japan during World War II. We were surprised by how much research went into it, and we are always interested in books that can teach us something. The story switches between Taro and Hana's perspectives so we see two sides of the story and what each experienced. Could we imagine being Hana, having to take care of the kamikaze pilots and then say goodbye to them, knowing that they will more than likely die? We talked about Hana and the pilot—how they felt at the beginning of the book versus the end— as well as the choices that surprised us and whether we would do the same. This was an emotional read and the pace moves well with the story."

Bibliobibuli: “Our members enjoyed THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY, and our chat with author Sherri Smith was especially enjoyable. The novel is a fictionalized account of young kamikaze pilots and the teen-aged girls who provided platonic camaraderie and emotional support to them during World War II. Smith employs lyrical prose to introduce the reader to war-torn Japan and the youth culture that rallied around Emperor Hirohito. We appreciated learning more about the Japanese perspective on World War II. Hana’s disparaging remarks about Americans made us realize that we had never heard from the youth of Japan about the events of the war."

HAH Reading Club: We really enjoyed THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY and its different perspectives on World War II We discussed how the novel reminded us of the current situation with the Ukrainian and Russian war. The author talked about remembering so it doesn’t happen again, and we discussed how emotional we felt about the abuse, propaganda, and conditioning that happened to prepare the civilians and boys for the war.
We compared how the reading of trauma and the emotional impact, ranges based on the age of the reader. We discussed the comparison of how being ready for death in a moment you can’t control, such as a reaction to an air raid, and the premeditated preparation of the pilots to body-crash was handled and how the author gave us both views. We also found how the invasion was perceived after all the preparations made to fight to the death as the expectation from the government. We recommend this novel to clubs looking for an emotional experience with a dive into other cultures."

Melanie's Book Club, Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Riverside Readers, Plain City, Ohio; Amy's Book Club, Boulder Colorado
A LIGHT IN THE FOREST by Melissa Payne (Lake Union, 2022)
An emotional and suspenseful novel about the weight of secrets and the healing power of friends and family.

Riverside Readers: “We loved the Ohio setting and although Crystal was a made-up town, we have been to similar small towns and could picture the intent while we read. We appreciated the fun and quirky characters with a hint of underlying mystery in the book. don't know. We discussed the small town, the stereotypes, and the reality, not all small towns in Ohio are like that but we knew why the author picked to use the stereotypical poor/mining town in Appalachia. The timelines coordinated well together with the flashbacks. The characters of the small town were unique and we liked how they interacted with each other—they balanced the trauma. The reader's guide for this book was great. Thank you! We love being introduced to new authors and this time it helped build a new small community of readers, as this is a new book club."

Amy's Book Club: "The setting drew us in, the characters moved us, and the story had us in its grip —and caused many of us to stay up way too late reading. Everyone loved the characters and felt invested in their stories, and wanted to know more about some of the more peripheral characters. We discussed, justice, bullies getting away with things, whether the law is involved or not, and how the town changed regarding violence toward the LGBTQIA+ community. We discussed the repetition of ‘running’ at the beginning and how it would have felt to be Vega just trying to escape and survive; the town dynamics and why it was mostly accepted that the Harrisons could bully who they pleased without repercussions — contrasted with the senseless shooting that took place the night before we met in Colorado Springs and whether we thought there would or could be justice.
We discussed which of the lovable/heroic characters we enjoyed the most and whether Vega was a hero or a victim;, the pacing of how quickly Vega developed community in Crystal, secrets and why they should be kept or told; our reactions to Vega checking Instagram and our internal screamings at her of what we wanted her to do, the town's support of Eve, and what would happen next for all of them. We recommend A LIGHT IN THE FOREST to book clubs that enjoy complicated relationships and a multi-decade mystery to unravel." 
Melanie’s Book Club:" We loved the opportunity to preview A LIGHT IN THE FOREST. We are reading another Melissa Payne book this month, as a result! Everyone had positive comments and the book made for great conversation. One member who is stingy with book ratings gave our selection 5 stars. This is a thoughtful, well-written book that discusses real-life issues with great character development. A main discussion point was the different social issues addressed in the book and that the author didn't 'preach' about them. Our group has many teachers and nurses in it and this made an impact on us, especially since we see these issues in the lives of our students and patients. We appreciated the character development and that through the different points of view, we were able to put pieces of the puzzle together before Vega did, yet it didn’t take away from the mystery. This book is a must-read! We look forward to seeing if her other books have a similar writing style and theme."
Madame Woods Book Club of Wiscasset, Maine, and Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey
THE WAYS WE HIDE, by Kristina McMorris (Sourcebooks, 2022)
A sweeping World War II tale of an illusionist whose recruitment by British intelligence sets her on a perilous, heartrending path.Madame Woods: “This book changed the way some of our readers perceive historical fiction. We were amazed at the authors’ ability to weave real-life events into an intricate and complex story. McMorris grabbed our attention with her latest novel, based on true facts This character-driven novel has elements of romance and suspense with a bittersweet ending. The novel begins with the main character Fenna whose life was significantly shaped by a stampede on Christmas Eve. Her perseverance from childhood helped her maintain her determination and profound instinct to get through life’s challenges along the way. Fenna, an intelligent character, is shaped by life events and uses those experiences to maneuver through challenges. This novel has elements of history and fiction interwoven in a way that makes the reader feel as though they are right alongside the characters.
We discuss the intricacies of the story and how relatable the main character was. McMorris thoughtfully and seamlessly transitions from a story of romance, into a detail-oriented spy novel, and keeps the reader o n the edge of their seat in anticipation of what direction the story and characters would go next. She challenges the reader to keep up with current and past storylines, all while inserting historical events, distracting the reader - they are well intertwined into the characters' lives and the book’s storylines. THE WAYS WE HIDE offers a variety of themes that would appeal to a large readership. So many beautiful moments, even in the last chapters of the book, that offer a sweet and real conclusion.”Book Club Girls of Sparta: "We enjoyed reading about a part of history we did not know of.Most of us were unaware of the Dutch involvement in the resistance or hadn't heard of this chapter of history where women recruited into the resistance worked on inventing escape aids that were hidden in things like games, and the hiding of clues and maps in ordinary objects was interesting to learn about. The resounding takeaway was the fact that so many people risked everything to help the resistance, to help other humans stay safe. Many questioned whether they would be as brave, especially being a woman. We found the most connecting part of the story was Fennas; bravery, and fearlessness even though she had deep trauma from the fire. We recommend THE WAYS WE HIDE to groups interested in historical fiction about new pieces of World War III history and strong female protagonists."Menu: Tea and speculoos cookies.

Brunch & Books Club, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Literary Fires Everywhere, Cortland Manor, New York
THE BODYGUARD by Katherine Center, (St. Martin's Press, 7/22)
A romantic and humorous romance about a bodyguard, and the movie star she's hired to protect, as they work to keep things professional under crazy circumstances

Brunch & Books: “We discussed the main character’s growth. Everyone enjoyed the love story, but seeing how the character grew into herself from start to finish was what really stood out. She gained confidence and self-respect that she didn’t have at the beginning and that really resonated with members. The discussion questions prompted a good conversation that brought to mind parts of the story we might not have discussed.
I Ioved this fun and funny book with every piece of my heart. It was my first Katherine Center novel and it felt as if I was sitting with a BFF listening to her tell e this hilarious and heartwarming story. 10/10! The Author’s Note alone is worth 5 stars. Don’t skip it! Recommended for those who enjoy funny, happy love stories! We’re so appreciative of the opportunity! “

Literary Fires Everywhere: "We all enjoyed this book. I am definitely not a regular rom-com reader— I usually find myself rolling my eyes at plots that make others swoon— but I really did love this book. It’s super cute, engaging, and the characters feel real. Even the setting popped right off the page! Definitely recommend grabbing this one!

Hannah has been hired to be a bodyguard to Jack, a Hollywood burnout who would prefer not to have a bodyguard. The pair have palpable chemistry, and I quickly found myself rooting for them. We are not huge romance readers and we’re all pleasantly surprised that it was both fluffy and deep, a un reads with a bit of drama. We all loved the touches and the author’s descriptions. (The Bush steak knives)."

Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado;  and Bookish Ladies,  Coto de Caza, California
HESTER by Laurie Lico Albanese (St. Martin's Press, 10/4/22)
A vivid reimagining of the woman who inspired Hester Prynne, the tragic heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and a journey into the enduring legacy of New England's witchcraft trials.
Get Woke: "HESTER’s message empowered us! As Laurie Lico Albanese writes, Hester Prynne is ‘a heroic woman who defies powerful men and vengeful villagers by wearing the symbol of her shame like a badge of courage.’ Heroic women! May we be them and may we raise them!”A major symbol, incorporating the books' themes, was  Isobel's sewing skill and her ability to design and stitch beautiful patterns and scenes that revealed emotions and contained hidden messages.
Each member of the book club was asked to bring a bottle of wine (or another beverage of choice), containing a label that could reflect a 'hidden' message or theme of the story. Our discussion involved each of the members presenting her wine and describing the label, revealing aspects of the novel. These included PROPHECY WINES— The label’s images relate to the supernatural world, and scenes with shooting stars. Isobel struggles to accept her power, and the woman on the label exhibits power.*TEMPTATION AND EVE—Depicts Eve tempting Adam. Isobel’s community shuns her as a witch when she becomes pregnant. EVE elicited discussion on the Bible story – Isobel notes its message about untrustworthy women. GNARLY HEAD WINES—summarizes many characters' mental states: Hawthorne struggles with his family history of witch trials. Isobel struggles with her artistic creations and powers. *KALEIDOSCOPE:— Isabel’s gift enables her to create beautiful designs and messages on clothing and understand others’ emotions. WITCHING HOUR: summarized the novel’s mystery, fantasy, excitement, and passion.
Menu: A ‘community rice bowl’ is symbolic of the support and encouragement women shared in the novel. Member brought ingredients. Along with the theme of wine, dessert bars were labeled ‘Primitive Nuts’: many characters reflect this title!
We  also shared a representation of each member’s name created by a woman with synesthesia.”
Ranch Readers: "We were intrigued by the premise of imagining the woman who inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne's protagonist, Hester Prynne, in his iconic novel, THE SCARLET LETTER, In Hester, they meet -- Nathan is a young struggling writer, who is haunted by his ancestor's treatment of the witches of Salem. and Isobel is a young wife, who recently immigrated from Scotland, and has been deserted by an opium-addicted husband who left her destitute. Isobel supports herself by creating exquisite embroidery and also through the kindness of others in town. She has synesthesia-a sensory phenomenon in which she sees letters and sounds expressed in colors. Isobel learns at an early she to hide this ability so that she would not be called a witch, but she uses her extraordinary skill to create beautiful work. We agreed that the book's language was very descriptive and enthralling and we had a long discussion about our own creative processes that have enriched our life.

We thought character of 'Hathorne' -- what the author calls Hawthorne-- could have been developed a bit further as he seemed shallow and his treatment of Isobel seemed dismissive. The social issues of the time were well highlighted by the author with a concurrent story of the Witch Trials in Salem, the plight of fleeing saves using the Underground Railroad, the mistreatment and victimization of women who had no rights, the struggles of prejudice that immigrants face in America We enjoyed the novel and feel it is going to become a best seller - it was definitely a compelling read!

Menu: Bee-shaped tea cakes and chocolate and lemon lavender scones to enjoy with tea and coffee.

Bookish Ladies: "Everyone enjoyed the book and a fresh reboot of The Scarlet Letter. The author did a wonderful retelling and we loved the characters and the story. We had a great discussion and we’re so happy to have this fun experience. We highly recommend HESTER! One member loved the book so much that she took a trip to Salem - ok it was a brilliant coincidence that she was going there!"

Menu: "Many colorful vegetables mentioned in the book."

Famished for Fiction, Plano, Texas and Cork and Olive Book Club, Valrico, Florida
HALF-BLOWN ROSE by Leesa-Cross Smith (Grand Central, 2022)
A novel about a woman remaking her life after her husband’s betrayal leads to a year of travel, art, and passion in Paris.

Famished for Fiction: “We had a great time discussing HALF-BLOWN ROSE! This book really stretched us!" We discussed infidelity quite a bit: some members felt that the current problem —the marriage— needed to be resolved before embarking on another adventure—a relationship with Loup. We discussed that Vincent and Loup being independently wealthy contributed to their ability to just 'do as they pleased'. Vincent runs off to Paris; she and Loup travel by train to visit Theo, and family. Her family’s laid-back attitude when she shows up with Loup is a bit shocking; but, put into the context of their family, it made sense. SPOILER ALERT: We felt the ending left questions unanswered...maybe a sequel is in the plans? We would love to know if Vincent will return to Cillian, stay with Loup or go out on her own. We felt she was d searching for her freedom by leaving Kentucky and fleeing to Paris; but, in the end, becomes more tied down with the pregnancy. We recommend this book to those who enjoy Paris, romance, art, and secrets."Menu: We loved that the novel was set in Paris so we met at a French restaurant, Toulouse Cafe & Bar for quiche, Toulouse salad, lobster rolls, lobster risotto, and rose-themed drinks: French 77 and Rose all-day punch."

Cork and Olive: We looked forward to HALF-BLOWN ROSE, as we enjoyed Leesa’s novel THIS CLOSE TO OKAY and this did not disappoint! We enjoy her writing style—a phenomenal writer!” There was much discussion about whether Vincent should have led her husband on, whether it was wrong for her to be with Loup before a decision about her marriage, and whether she should have reached out to Tully and his mother. No one liked Cillian's actions and would have preferred Vincent to end her marriage if she was going to go be with someone else. We discussed Vincent's relationship with her children and the growing relationship with Tully, who we loved. There was concern that Vincent spent more time on Tully with her children, although we know that she loved them - she just didn't share as much of herself with them. We all want an epilogue!! We agreed that we needed to know what Vincent decided. Some hoped she kicked both Cillian and Loop to the curb, stayed in Paris, and raised the baby herself. Some thought she might have both... We loved that she decided to just do whatever she felt— eat pastries, sleep during the day, do whatever her spirit felt, while she proces

sed this punch in the gut to her life.
We enjoyed the references to food, art, books, and music. It was SO brilliant that Leesa created Vincent's Spotify playlists. We were delighted to see videos and references to characters on @anchoismusic. What a great way to bring the book to life! C'est bon bon bon! We recommend this novel to those who enjoy travel, art, and passion.”

Menu: "Our menu featured foods referenced —wonderfully varied and not all French! Cranberry Meatballs and Mashed Potatoes, Chickpea Stew, Fig Jam and Cheese with crackers, Rosemary Flatbread with Hummus and Olives, Pain au Chocolat, Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, and of course, Champagne!

Sensational Seven of App